REVIEW: Josh Ritter with Tift Merritt at St George's Bristol, 5/5, by Keith Clark
NOT many years ago, Josh Ritter was being tipped for great things. But then things seemed to go quiet. Now, after a three-year wait, he has released a new album. And for the first time in even more years he was back in Bristol.
If that was not good enough news, supporting him was Tift Merritt, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter from North Carolina whose short set included new songs and some of her best-known numbers including Another Country and Good Hearted Man. Her version of Percy Sledge's Dark Side Of The Street was very slow and very special.
Ritter came on to an introduction played by his guitarist Josh Kaufman and pianist and double-bass player Zack Hickman. And, from the deafening cheers, he can have been in no doubt that he has been missed.
The set list was dominated by songs from across his career. He opened with Best For The Best and an organ-heavy version of Southern Pacifica. He gave us his unusual Gothic rewrite of the Stagger Lee folk song Folk Bloodbath, the Tex Mex-style LilianEgypt, Make Me Down, Wildfires and the witty Galahad.
The big numbers were Girl In The War – to which one fan near me sang along word perfect – and Kathleen which had us all singing. There were songs sung solo, new ones from the current album, and some not yet recorded.
His latest album, The Beast In Its Tracks, was written after his divorce and a near-death illness. But Ritter has never seemed so happy on stage. When the audience got the howls in first on Wolves he looked as if he was going to explode in giggles. And he jumped up and down in excitement when the near-capacity audience gave him a noisy and deserved standing ovation.