Showboat

Album: Gathering (2017)

Songfacts®:

  • This is the introductory track off Josh Ritter's ninth full-length studio album Gathering. He recalled the story of the song in an essay written for American Songwriter:

    "I have almost no memory of how 'Showboat' was born; that's true of most of my songs. I have a vague notion that I was watching an infomercial, the kind where a guy rubs some goo on the hood of a car to remove a scratch. The TV salesman offered a 'helpful tip,' and for some reason that struck a chord with me. Once I had 'here's a helpful tip, the rain,' the first two verses came easily. The song was about a heartbroken somebody who can't wait for it to rain so that the drops will hide his tears. With these two verses done, I was stuck. I wrote a couple horrendous third verses, burned them, ran them over with a car and tossed them off a bridge. Then I waited for the rest of the song to unfold. As I waited I began to realize that what was needed was not another verse/chorus combination, but a verse leading into an extended kind of coda. 'Coda' is one of the words I learned while I was failing out of music theory. It means a section at the end of the piece of music that does not follow the rules or order of what precedes it. I always enjoyed this word because on tests it meant I would get at least one answer right.

    The coda idea really gave me room to let loose; the floodgates were open. The rest of the song came so fast my pen couldn't keep up, it was messy and frantic, that sharp-edged, manic laughing/crying feeling - just like this lonely guy, heartbroken, sinking, scrambling to keep his head above water. I heard somewhere, sometime, that a true writer knows when to lift the pen and call a piece of writing done."
  • Matt Douglas of the Mountain Goats arranged the big, brassy horns.

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