Before you ask “who are Ritz & Wesson?” I’ll explain. Nigel Wesson was a resident at Bunjies Folk Cellar back in the day which is where he met Bryan Ritz. As is often the case, real life got in the way and they drifted apart reuniting, quite by chance, in 2013. Wisdom Of The Heart is their third album, a record that combines the comfortingly old-fashioned and the modern. The mix of original songs reflects the sort of sets you might have heard back then and shows how much they learned paying their dues has stayed with them.
Bryan plays acoustic guitar and Nigel plays guitars, banjo and mandolin so the instrumental ‘Sunrise’ is an appropriate opener and if you’re wondering, yes, the final track is its other half, ‘Sunset’. There is a third instrumental. ‘Three Sisters’, also written by Nigel, which neatly divides the set. Their guitar sound is clean and clear, one might say plangent without the connotation of mournfulness. Both sing, harmonise comfortably and are supported by multi-instrumentalist and engineer Gavin Beckwith and percussionist Andrew McClennon.
The first song is a joint composition, ‘Just Fine’, which is about friendship or perhaps a long and happy marriage, but generally Ritz and Wesson take different paths in their writing. Wesson has a philosophical bent which is apparent in the next two songs, ‘Laze Away’ and ‘Let’s Get Away’, both about turning your back on the pace and pressures of modern life. Ritz favours blues and ragtime and more uptempo tunes. ‘Street Band’ is his big production number with accordion by Romano Vazzani and flute by Geoff Duckworth giving the whole thing a busking vibe.
That’s not to say that there is a yin-yang thing going on. Their influences rub off on each other. The joint composition, ‘Dark River’, a meditation on the Thames in their boyhood days and a contrast with modern times where “the riverside divides by class” proves that point eloquently. So Bryan’s ‘She’s Moving On’ is a tender reflection on the sad ending of a relationship and Nigel’s ‘Liquor Head’ is an uptempo song about replacing booze with music.
The only track I have any doubts about is Bryan’s ‘The Times They Sure Have Changed’. It’s a good idea and makes valid points about modern life but dragging Dylan into the chorus grates a bit (I’m a long-time Dylan fan) – once would have been fine but the repeats are too much, I feel. You probably won’t agree and it’s a minor niggle in the context of a very enjoyable album.
Ritz & Wesson are all over the internet but don’t have a website of their own. Nor is there a video from Wisdom Of The Heart available. Think of it as an early Easter egg and see what you can find.
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