Ship in a Bottle, a concept album split into four parts, tells the story of twelve co-conspirators who steal a ship to escape life on shore. They set off, speeding out of the harbor, determined to explore the seas and lands beyond map’s end.
Alas, by the end of the opening song, the cohort has discovered they’re actually trapped inside a bottle. Through the rest of the album, one after another takes a turn/song at the helm, trying to find a way out.
Truthfully, after the first song it’s as if the sailors have collective amnesia and we don’t hear of the ship or sea again until the final song.
And just who are these twelve sailors?
None other than the most pervasive archetypes known to humankind:
The album is divided into four parts, each corresponding to a different part of the ship:
I. Any Port
II. Shots Across the Bow
III. Listing Starboard
IV. From Stern to Stem
Each part consists of four songs: three with one of the archetypes at the helm and one as a passageway to the next part of the ship.
Musically, this album represents J Roth at his most sparse and vulnerable – just voice and guitar. Gone is the palette of instruments he’s employed on his past albums. Tonal coloring on this album depends on the subtler shades provided by the thirteen various guitar tunings he utilizes.
The guitar work – though far from mundane – really takes backseat to the words. This album could be viewed as a series of lyrical poems, telling the story of a ship and its misfits, which in reality is-
Well…you can define it for yourself. If you care to climb aboard.