Josh Ritter - Hello Starling
The man is huge in Ireland but few in the UK had heard much about Josh Ritter until he did some great acoustic sessions on Radio 2. Despite this only being his second major album, Josh is already being touted as the next big thing to hit the folk-rock scene along with positive comparisons with Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. Whether this turns out to be true is a moot point but he is undoubtedly with the likes of Kathleen Edwards or Oh Susanna part of a new generation of folk artists that are bringing this music to a younger public.
Again Ritter has decided to stick with the acoustic sound that he does best and globally it's a huge success. With the occasional introduction of drums or a muted piano, electrical instruments are few and far between - when they do make a brief appearance, it's a discreet lap-steel guitar or a Wurlitzer.
Bright Smile, the current single, opens the album in the way it will continue - a simple but intricate acoustic guitar melding together with literary lyrics. The slightly lazy voice reminds of Ryan Adams in his acoustic moments (i.e. Adams at his best) . Kathleen follows, seeing Ritter bring a full set of drums to accompany his touching tale of a teenage love.
Proving he can pull off rock out performances, Man Burning combines the drive of The Waterboys or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers without feeling the need to plug in the instruments. "I'm a man burning at both ends" he tells us and his earnest tone makes you actually believe him. Rainslicker follows, languorous and slow. It could just have easily been penned by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy with that dizzy feel along with the reflective lyrics.
With the timepiece Wings, Ritter proves beyond a shadow of doubt he can deliver on the same level as Bill Mallonee, Willard Grant Conspiracy or Gillian Welch who have all managed to delve deep into American folk to find tales of universal resonance. The rest of the album is of a similar ilk be it the fragile California or the rocky Snow is Gone (which bears a fleeting similarity to New York, New York). All in all, this is another strong effort from the Idaho lad and definitely an artist to watch in the coming years.
Josh Ritter wil be playing on the 30 & 31 July at the Cambridge Folk Festival and 20 & 21 August at the V Festival. In the meanwhile, you can download an MP3 of Kathleen at joshritter.com.