Monday, April 26, 2010

Josh Ritter Live at Dolans 25/04/2010 REVIEW

My first encounter with Mr. Ritter was back in 2003 when I purchased “Hello Starling”. I distinctly remember putting up the Christmas tree that year with this album blaring around the house. It always transports me back to that time and some great memories are built around this album and a lot of what Josh has brought out since. I have missed so many opportunities of seeing him live, due to lack of money or bad timing; I have even witnessed his wife “Dawn Landes” before now in a great gig in the Roisin Dubh. I love when an act like this gets billed in Dolans and you spend the lead up to the gig indulging in his whole back catalogue. Just song after song of acoustic bliss, you could listen to him happily for weeks on end without picking up any other albums. I got a chance to get an advanced copy of his new 2010 release “So Runs the World Away” , The 56 second instrumental intro track “Curtains” sends instant shivers down your spine as the surge of plucking electric guitars whirl into a musical crescendo and is a brilliant introduction to the album. First track is “Change of Time”. This was given away free on Josh’s site some months ago, and I don’t know if it’s my familiarity with the song or what, but its just a breath taking track as the military style drumming comes in mid way to give this song an amazingly brilliant layered sound. This multi-layered sound permeates the whole album and offers a sense of depth which surely required both effort and skill from all involved. Indeed, just looking at the sleeve notes for each song, one notes the amount of people and instruments contributing on each track. The third track on the album “The Curse” is an instant winner, the beautifully played piano whisks the listener off into a dream land and the wonderful enchanting story Josh weaves on this particular track is just amazingly haunting and stays with you long after the album has finished - by far my favourite on the album. The songs in my opinion all draw from an almost dreamlike state conjuring amazing tales of the sea, exploration and imagination. “So Runs the world away” will end the year on many a top ten album list. I arrive in Dolans early and already the upstairs balcony area is jam packed with shadows and the floor space below in the warehouse is beginning to fill up too, I find a good spot up the front and gaze at the wonderful plectra of guitars and instruments strewn about the stage. The support act tonight is “Joe Pug”. I was recommended his debut album “Messenger” back in February of this year just as it was released and was delighted to see he was on the bill. The Chicago born singer arrived on stage and I was amazed at how young he looked. His gravely tone and his worldly lyrics conjure an image of a man that has lived and seen much. The comparisons with early brilliance of Springsteen and Dylan must be made. Indeed, the lyrics form stories of protest & life paint a landscape of the America you don’t get to see on Hollywood’s silver screen. His blazing harmonica accompanied him throughout his small set and the emotional upheaval that underpins the lyrics was painted all over his face. I wasn’t alone in my admiration, as a considerable queue formed to purchase his CD after the show. It was clear most people in Dolans had not heard of this guy but for a few faint sing-alongers though he successfully captured the attention of the crowd with his stories of Americana. He played a brand new song hot of the presses so that he would be “in the same boat as the crowd”, acknowledging with a smile, that for most people there “every song was a new song”. A hard hitting song about a brother committing suicide after the war and a sister finding solace only at the end of a bottle captured my interest and provoked images of post 9-11 America. By the end of the set he had the crowd in the palm of his hands and I’m sure built up a nice fan base in Limerick. His EP “In The Meantime” can be downloaded for free from his site here http://www.joepugmusic.com/, The full length album “Messenger” is well worth the purchase, Joe plays the Kilkenny Rhythm & Roots festival this weekend, Go check him out if you can! That swirling intro “Curtains” comes blasting out of the speakers and in steps Mr. Ritter with a Cheshire cat grin that didn’t fade for the rest of the night. It was actually astounding how happy this guy was to be here, maybe it was the fact that he avoided the Icelandic volcanoes ashes to get here or maybe he was simply eager to showcase his new baby in the form of his 7th album “So Runs the World Away”. (It’s clear from reviewing the set list afterwards that he and the band are nervous to play these songs for the first time, with side notes on most of the songs of how to play them and what time various members join in.) Well, there was no need to be nervous, that’s for sure. The band helping Josh tonight are named “The Royal City Band” and what a collective these folk are. All decked out in three piece suits, and the bass player “Zack Hickman” fashioned a gravity -defying Moustache which was quite mesmerising. The music tonight drew mainly from the new release, as Josh managed to squeeze all 13 albums tracks into the 24 song set and why wouldn’t he? The album was released just two days previous and he clearly wanted to shed the light of day on these fresh tracks. Josh jumped around the stage all night like a giddy school kid, beyond excited to be showcasing his new tracks and happy just to be up there doing what he loves most. He spoke throughout the night with statements such as “Some of the best gigs of my life have been in this very room”. He also smentioned that coming to Ireland to play is very like coming back to play a home town gig and that you always have to up your game for a home town gig. He was a joy to watch and gave everyone a slice of his happiness. During “Wicked Game” the bassist starting to sing “Wicked Game” impromptu with the crowd joining in with much delighted and humour. For the encore Josh arrived out and played an awe inspiring version of “Moon River” and then lashed into “Snow is Gone” stopping mid song to swamp a pint of Guinness in 4 seconds flat. Some may have left without hearing what they wanted from the back catalogue (I only got one from my favourite album “Hello Starling”), but it didn’t dampen the experience one bit as the night was a incredible showcase of talent and beautiful music. Josh, like a good whiskey, is getting better with age and the new record has actually improved upon what I didn’t think could have been improved. Stories of explorations, foreign lands, dream-worlds, gravity, and endless love conjure images of Columbus, Magellan, Tutenkahmen, and Newton. What has really emerged in this album is the quality of Josh’s song-writing and it’s no surprise to hear that he is in fact releasing a book this summer intitled “Bright’s Passage”. Listening back to the album now is great after getting a new appreciation from the live versions. Josh is one act that must be witnessed live if you can, I for one will break my back to see him again. Thanks for a great night of music, Cheers! Set List : Curtains Southern Pacific Change of Time Rumors Rattling Locks Right Moves Good Man Wolves Lark Long Shadows The Curse Folk Bloodbath In the Dark Me & Jiggs See How Man Was Made The Remnant Orbital Harrisburg (Wicked Game - Chris Isaak Cover) Another New World Lantern To the Dogs or Whoever Encore: Moon River (Johnny Mercer Cover) Snow is Gone Wait for Love

4 comments:

potsie said...

Excellent - thank you for this. Really good gig

IndieLimerick said...

Full Review up now :)

Elaine K said...

What a great review of the night! From your videos and description of where you were in Dolan's it appears we were practically standing next to one another!

Seriously, great write-up; well done!

IndieLimerick said...

Thanks Elaine! :)