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JOSH RITTER —GATHERING (Pytheas / Thirty Tigers / Red)

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American singer-songwriter Josh Ritter has for some failed to become as big as anticipated this side of the pond. Others might ague differently, but I am more inclined to support the former since though this is his 9th full-length album he has yet to gain full recognition here. Will Gathering place a fairer perspective on the situation I hope so, as for the album it opens with a brief piece of shaker-like vocals. Followed by the stunning free ‘n easy flowing “Showboat” Ritter is quickly into his stride, and with a stout epic duet collaboration with Grateful Dead veteran, Bob Weir “When Will I Be Changed” and the boom-chicka-boom propelled “Feels Like Lightening” filling slots on the first-half of the recording Ritter has points on the board before you know it. 

Backed by his The River City Band of Zachariah Hickman, Sam Kassirer, Ray Rizzo and Josh Kaufman Ritter has stellar support, and with a multitude set of arrangements he delves into Kerouac-esque territory of the folk jazz induced and at times, dramatic “Dreams”. It comes complete with keyboards, percussion, harmony vocals and even a little radio styled static the imagination of one is superbly fuelled. 

While the productions are sumptuous, the listener is never in fear of been overwhelmed in a surfeit of riches. Or the focus diverted from Ritter’s lead vocal and lyrical content. If “Friendamine” was propelled any faster it might explode as he is powered on by a frenetic rhythm, slide guitar etc as everyone has a blast! 

Going back to “Feels Like Lightening” the accomplished fashion that he leads the line is outstanding, and with wurlitzer, synthesiser and percussion warming the tempo the music smiles. Of a more studious note “Train Go By” and “Dreams” edge along in a beautiful poised fashion and with stripped down production he first delivers warmth and, on the latter a mystical and edgy song set to spark a bunch of emotions and imagery to go with it. Piano rolls, rare splashes of urgent callings and percussion accompany the tune masked in mystery has Ritter go Kerouac! “Myra Loy” is a reflective ode, and though in its way pretty it isn’t among his finest. Not by a long shot. 

Edging into the final quartet of tunes, he races into a country music setting for “Cry Softly”, as he performs a piece that offers a wonderful joyful feel. Superb keyboards, piano and lead guitar lead the romp, and with a likewise uplifting feel (and steel guitar) you have “Oh Lord (Part3)”. “Thunderbolt’s Goodnight” has a warm tender feel, and with female harmonies and keyboards is glides past in a pleasing fashion. “Strangers” wraps up Gathering in an unassuming fashion as the song weaves its gentle, reflective lyrics in a simple but at the same time intriguing fashion. Interesting, though never a title-track or stop you in your tracks affair.   

  Maurice Hope

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September 2018

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