9:30 Club, Washington DC - February 14, 2011.
I reviewed his latest CD for FolkWorld and it was one of the best things I had heard of the 60 or so CDs I listened to. It made my Top Ten Folk CDs of last year, although it is not simply a folk record. Ritter is a song writer extraordinaire with Americana, folk, light rock and classic songwriter type sounds present. He has a great voice that hits the middle range with strength and feeling.
In fact, it was amazing to watch a sold-out crowd hush itself enough so he could bring it down to an audible whisper. Late in the set, he even went off mic, turned the pick-ups off on his acoustic and played to the crowd with a sing-along where you could still hear his guitar.
He played several songs solo and had various band members on stage for most of the set. He had a rhythm section, lead guitarist and three guys on brass at times. The real star was the keyboardist who had really hot piano moves and played a touch of organ, too.
The band was solid, but it was all about the songs. Ritter can really turn a phrase and build a melody with smooth deft flourishes. It makes it look simple, as most great songwriters do. He and Richard Thompson top my list as the best active songwriters currently working (not counting the Hall of Fame guys like Dylan and Cohen and the like whose back catalog is where their classics exist).
Ritter also had great personality and energy tonight. Ritter had a feature where he read dedications from people at the show which were alternatively touching and very funny. There was even the marriage proposal with its shouted acceptance. The best laugh was "Danielle, Josh Ritter has nothing on me." This was a good touch. It sounded like something on the Prairie Home Companion, only it was funny.
He played for nearly two hours prior to the encore. His bantering and the music were balanced and of such high quality, the time flew by. Josh Ritter is one of the best at what he does. May he have continued success.
First published @ dcrocklive.blogspot.com.
Photo Credits: (1) Josh Ritter (Doug Rice, from website).