Two Sundays ago, lyrical genius and brilliant songwriter Josh Ritter headlined the final show at Port Washington, New York’s Landmark Theatre Fabulous Folk Series. The big surprise of the night was the opening act Lowland Hum, comprised of the married couple Daniel and Lauren Goans. Their impeccable and succinct harmonies were impressively presented at the very beginning of their set on their song Four Sisters. Daniel’s acoustic guitar strumming, Lauren’s snare percussion and both of their organic percussive foot stomps atop their own wooden planks further enriched the beautiful, pleasant indie rock vibes. It’s hard to go into detail about a band you’ve just discovered without knowing their music but they announced that their new album will be released early next year and I’m very interested and excited.
Josh opened up his set with his classic tune Thin Blue Flame from his fourth album The Animal Years. The concert was definitely a true solo acoustic concert with slight backing vocals from his Royal City band bassist Zack Hickman throughout the entire set. At the end of Thin Blue Flame you feel as if ten minutes went by because of Josh’s magical ability to bring in the audience with his specific and descriptive storybook lyrics. Between his vivid words and the simple, recurring chords of the song, as an opening number Thin Blue Flame successfully set the mood and standard for what listening Josh Ritter in an intimate theatre setting is like.
Josh kept the older, classic tunes streak going for the first several songs. Highlights included Come And Find Me and Me & Jiggs from his second album Golden Age Of Radio. Both songs had opposite moods and Ritter impressively made the switch from the dark, slow vibes of Come And Find Me to the upbeat, energetic fingerpicking altitude of Me & Jiggs. Later he played The Temptation Of Adam from his fifth album The Historial Conquests Of Josh Ritter, another great story that Ritter beautifully captures in a five-minute song.
Over the summer at the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival, Josh teased Snow Is Gone from his third album Hello Starling for about three seconds and then stopped and said into the mic “Eh, I’ve been playing that one too much lately.” Well two Sundays ago at Landmark Theatre Josh performed the full song, and this was the absolute highlight of the night for me because it’s Josh’s one of his happiest, catchiest and most clever songs.
The new songs from his latest album Sermon On The Rocks sounded just as good solo acoustic as they do with the full band whom Josh recently finished touring with. Henrietta, Indiana is a bluesy, honky-tonk folk tune and is a perfect example of Josh’s master ability to deliver honest and thoroughly heartfelt music. Another set highlight and favorite song of mine was Where The Night Goes, a beautiful song about “long nights, old cars, back roads and the bone yards,” the imagery in song is just as fascinated as the key change towards the end of the song which carries the excitement until the ending chord. Josh Ritter is an inimitable songwriter and his folk style and stage presence verifies his legitimacy as an indie rock superstar.
Scott J. Herman