In the music world, there are Josh Roush, Joshua Radin and Josh Ritter. If this gets confusing, just remember that Josh Ritter is the songwriting machine with the perpetual smile. Undoubtedly the humblest and nicest person in show business I have ever met, Ritter is also almost as big in Ireland as Springsteen is in Jersey.
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Ritter preform on the second of two special nights at Lower Manhattan’s City Winery. Young prolific Josh (just age 37 with seven albums of original material already under his belt) advertised two solo performances featuring new material. For an hour and forty minutes that’s mostly what was played from the Winery stage atop the occasional sounds of the subway below.
After opening with three catalog songs, Ritter warned “we’re now entering some new terrain.” Accompanied at times by long-time cohort, Zach Hickman, he then followed with 19 brand-spanking new songs. As far as I know, these songs were all debuted the night before from the same stage. (A peak at setlist.fm shows that “Lake Charlevoix” may not have been played the first night.) Josh later closed out his set with four of his best known numbers as a reward to the wonderfully appreciative and attentive audience.
Few performers could get away so easily with something like this. A recent show I saw at the Ryman by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy where he opened his show playing his unheard new album in its entirety is a good example. To my eyes and ears, Ritter’s captivating presence and razor-sharp vocals had me hanging on every word. It was easy to put myself inside of his songs, many of which are written in narrative form. Tweedy’s set on the other hand had me yawning when either the music got too trippy or the lyrics too cryptic.
My thanks go out to the respectfully quiet crowd that stayed focused throughout all of the unfamiliar songs. This changed however during the final numbers when the roomful of Ritter die-hards all joyfully started singing along. Together they all looked like a rather faithful collective that I hope to join after I soon rediscover some parts of Ritter’s career that I have missed.
Nashvillians be ready! The local branch of the City Winery will have its soft opening next week, and Josh Ritter will be part of an Americana Music Festival showcase there on Friday night, September 19th. According to the Winery website, this show is sold out, but there is a place for you to place your name on a waiting list.
Here’s me and that perpetual smile at a Grimey’s in-store back in November 2007.
- Come and Find Me
- Me & Jiggs
- You’ll Be Seeing Me Around (new song)
- Stars on My Crown (new song)
- Anger Guards the Garden (new song)
- Sweetwater (new song)
- Curse the Rose (new song)
- Cumberland (new song)
- Henrietta (new song)
- Hard to Find a Heart (new song)
- Lake Charlevoix (new song)
- Man or Horse (new song)
- I Am (new song)
- Showboat (new song)
- When Will I Be Changed (new song)
- Cry Softly (new song)
- Strangers (new song)
- In the Darkness (new song)
- A Place Like This (new song)
- See Where the Night Goes (new song)
- Night Comes Down (new song)
- Joy to You Baby
- Snow is Gone
Josh Ritter – Vocals and Acoustic Guitar
Zachariah Hickman – Standup Bass, Acoustic Guitar and Backing Vocals