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MusicUnderFire | February 14, 2016

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A musical triumph: let’s embrace Josh Ritter’s “Beast”


If you’re looking for musical companionship amidst the frenzied pace of daily life, consider American singer-songwriter Josh Ritter’s newest “Beast in its Tracks” release. His soft, sensitive music is easy to love, but even after 6 releases in 15 years, he’s still a bit of an enigma. The tracks found on his newest release are commendable for warm, sensitive guitar overtures and splendid arrangements.

In the world of Indie music, Ritter has that special ability to communicate much through a modicum of sound. Such is the case with “Beast’s” opener. In less than a minute, “Third Arm” tells us everything we need to know: the singer’s hurting, but also, possibly on the road to recovery. Ritter has spoken in interviews about the inspiration for most of these tracks – his divorce from singer-songwriter Dawn Landes, followed by his subsequent new-found partner. In other words, these songs speak more to us about healing than about heartbreak.

Just how does Ritter sing about dark topics like betrayal, and still sound so sunny, fresh and uplifting? With divorce still fresh on his mind, we’ll surmise keeping his eraser on-hand while he penned these songs helped him keep things light. We also love the juxtaposition of songs like “Nightmares” and “Evil Eye,” both good examples of Ritter’s ability to turn life’s challenges sunnyside-up.

There are a number of wistfully upbeat songs here in which to take refuge, including the soft rocker “Hopeful.” Perfectly crafted for live in-house performances, it pulls us in with solid drumming, great lyrics, a lilting piano and a chorus fitting for audience sing-a-long’s; it just may become one of your favorites. Sings Ritter on the chorus: “And she’s hopeful / Hopeful, for me / I’m coming out of the dark clouds.” Don’t we just love rooting for the underdog?

About Josh Ritter: a musician devoted to his craft

Ritter’s music might be described as alternative folk-rock (think Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah,” or Bruce Cockburn’s “Lions”). The 37-year old singer-songwriter has been making music since he was just a teenager playing roadhouses and coffee shops, and, while better-known these days, his recording history is typical of many independent artists. For example, he recorded “Golden Age of Radio,” his second album, for $1,000 and self-published it. In 2005, he also signed with a British label, V-2 Records.

Currently getting a bit of radio airplay, “Joy to You Baby” is a sure crowd-pleaser. A pensive breakup song where the singer clearly hasn’t finished letting go, “Joy” boasts an amazing, mesmerizing electric guitar on its chorus.

Starting with its quiet, seductive acoustic intro, “In Your Arms Again” is another musical standout. Soft harmonies, steady tempo and a memorable lyrics, “In Your Arms” invites easy familiarity – don’t be too surprised if you wake up some morning with this one in mind.

Cuddle up and get ready for “Bonfire;” with its crisp, accomplished finger-picking and wicked-good slide guitar, it’s another standout. “In the dark, anybody will do for love / But you’re the only one I want when the sun comes up / No burning ball of fire set in the sky will do / Next to my bonfire for you,” sings Ritter.  We love it.

A quiet close to a great set of tracks

Ritter’s vocals, the simple strum of an acoustic guitar.. and, is that bongo’s we’re hearing off in the distance? Suggestive of a song sung ’round the campfire, the soothing “Lights” is the perfect closer to this remarkable “Beast.”

Recorded with an artist’s eye for detail at the Great North Sound Society in Parsonfield Maine, these honest tracks are alive, crisp, fresh. Don’t hesitate to pick up an extra copy for a family member, friend, or that special someone.

Upcoming shows

Currently touring to promote his latest, Ritter performs April 20 in St Louis, Mo; May 16 at The Trocadero in Philadelphia; May 17 at House of Blues in Boston; May 18 in New York City at Terminal 5; and May 22 in Richmond, VA.

For more concert dates or information about the music of Josh Ritter, check him out on iTunes, or visit: