If I had just one wish it would be that more people get to know and appreciate the music of Josh Ritter. I know I’m supposed to wish for world peace but this seems more realistic.
Josh Ritter’s ninth album, Gathering, was released last week and I had the pleasure to attend the release concert and signing at The Electric Fetus. Ritter played many of the songs from the album and proved that his artistic prowess has not dimmed.
Ritter is a masterful storyteller, his lyrics are quite often a literal mouthful because the storyline and character development he accomplishes in a two or three minute song requires that the words fly by. Good luck learning the lyrics for "To The Dogs or Whoever." Ritter has certainly evolved as a songwriter; portions of Gathering feel very introspective compared to earlier albums (The Beast In Its Tracks being an exception). And his last couple of albums have a relaxed, looser vibe in contrast to the tight, studio sound of his earlier albums. And praise be! Sermon on the Rocks and Gathering feel closer to his electric live performances than, say, Hello, Starling. A fantastic album sure, but one that lacks the electricity present on Rocks and Gathering.
While his personal and professional evolution seems to be on display on Gathering, what has not evolved, at least from the perspective of an audience member, is Ritter’s enthusiasm for performing. I have been attending Ritter concerts for a decade and have repeated the same refrain for ten years: no artist more genuinely enjoys performing and sharing music with his fans. I honestly cannot recall having ever seen him perform without an ear-to-ear grin plastered on his face the entire set and last week was no exception. Ritter and Zack Hickman brought down the house. Their encore performance of "Getting Ready to Get Down" with the entire audience singing along was one of the most fun concert experiences I have ever had.
As if that wasn’t enough, Ritter then talked with, hugged and signed albums and posters for everyone who showed up. I personally waited 2 hours and would have gladly waited longer. The general consensus amongst those of us waiting was ‘what a nice guy.’ So maybe it’s not world peace. Then again, if the world learned to understand, accept and empathize with all different kinds of people the way Ritter's music does maybe we would inch a little closer.