‘Gathering’ is the ninth full length album from singer songwriter Josh Ritter and is out today on Pytheas Recordings/Thirty Tigers.
The album marks 20 years since Ritter first started recording and performing, and sees Ritter return to the Clubhouse Studio, New York, with his band, the Royal City Band, and engineer Trina Shoemaker.
Ritter says of the recording,
“I began with an exciting sense of dissatisfaction, and what emerged, as I began to find my voice, was a record full of storms. I still can’t tell what era these stories are from. They feel part roustabout, part psalm to me.”
Comprising 13 tracks, the album is raucous and fiery, reminding us of the legendary early days of rock’n’roll, sounding like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash.
Citing among his influences the likes of Leonard Cohen, Gillian Welch, Billy Collins, Mark Twain, one isn’t surprised that one of Ritter’s strengths is his lyricism. Fast-paced instrumentation is matched with relentless singing, only slowing down by track 5, ‘When Will I Be Changed’, which features Grateful Dead guitarist, Bob Weir.
Track 6, ‘Train Go By’, continues the slower, more heart-felt sound, with Ritter’s vocals replicating the sound of a train trundling along the tracks. ‘Dreams’, following on, is half-sung, half-spoken, with Ritter sombre and melancholy, the song itself dreamy and almost ethereal, and the track autobiographical in nature, with simple instrumentation of guitars and keys.
‘Myrna Loy’ is an homage to the film star, who started out as a dancer, and came from humble beginnings in Helena, Montana, first moving with her mother to California in 1912, and eventually settling permanently in Culver City in 1918. Ritter performed the song at the Myrna Loy Center, named in her honour in her birthplace. The song is slow and beautiful, a moving, if somewhat apocryphal, tribute to both the actress and those golden days of America’s wilderness.
‘Interlude’ is an instrumental track based on the hymn, ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross’, and serves as a stepping stone from the quiet reflection of ‘Myrna’ to the upbeat and Rockabilly sound of ‘Cry Softly’ and the gospel-infused ‘Oh Lord (Part III)’, with its slide guitar and percussion.
‘Thunderbolts Goodnight’ continues with the spiritual theme of the previous few songs, and is gentle and reflective, while album closer, ‘Strangers’ is as much a love song as any other on the album, with its hazy and laid-back guitar strumming.
Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band will be touring the UK and Ireland in December, and you can see them at the following:
Tues 5th LONDON, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Weds 6th BELFAST, Mandela Hall
Thurs 7th DUBLIN, Vicar Street (seated show)
Fri 8th DUBLIN, Vicar Street (standing show)
Sun 10th LIMERICK, Dolan’s
Mon 11th CORK, Cork Opera House