October 2, 2003

Test Spin: Josh Ritter

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Pity Josh Ritter. The Idaho native and modern day troubadour is finding it all but impossible to avoid the inevitable “new-Dylan” tag. But Hello Starling, recently released via Signature Sounds, makes a startlingly convincing case for the comparison. The singer/songwriter’s heart wrenching tales are stunning in their grace and elegance, and Mr. Ritter’s compositions shine with gorgeous lyrical imagery that suggests maturity far beyond his 26 years.

Recorded and mixed over 14 days in the French countryside, Hello Starling boasts near perfect production, courtesy of David Odlum (Gemma Hayes, Frames). Mr. Odlum has managed to craft an organic sound that is timeless but never old-fashioned.

Songs like “Bright Smile” and “Snow is Gone” showcase Mr. Ritter’s penchant for melody as well as the superb musicianship of his band. Sam Kassirer’s understated Hammond organ, in particular, helps to create the sonic texture that makes this album such an enjoyable listen.

On “Kathleen,” Mr. Ritter croons to an object of his unrequited love: “all the other girls here are stars/ you are the Northern Lights.” He might as well be talking to himself because in a crowded universe of singer/songwriters, Mr. Ritter shines.

Archived article by Mathew Gewolb