Josh Ritter

Hello Starling

BY Kerry DoolePublished Jan 1, 2006

This young Idaho-raised singer-songwriter has already become a chart-topping star in Ireland, and is getting plenty of critical attention elsewhere. His 2001 indie debut, Golden Age of Radio, first set tongues wagging, and now Hello Starling reveals a songsmith of great skill and potential. The album was actually recorded in France last year and there is something of a European/British sensibility in its tone. Ritter prefers subtle instrumental and melodic touches, making this a record that rewards repeated listening. The sensitivity of his vocal approach also evokes comparisons to such Canadian writers as Sarah Harmer (for whom Josh recently opened a tour) and Ron Sexsmith. Ritter’s fluid and warm vocals always take centre stage and are neatly framed by guitars and evocative keyboards (including Hammond and Wurlitzer). This is best exemplified on the gorgeous "Kathleen,” an album highlight on a work devoid of lowlights. The judicious use of mandolin, lap steel, and accordion add a rootsy flavour to such tunes "Snow Is Gone” and "California.” The minimal acoustic guitar and voice approach on "You Don’t Make It Easy Babe” is reminiscent of the ’60s British folk of John Renbourn or Bert Jansch, while there is similarly sparse instrumentation on the lyrically dense "Wings.” That tune whispers of a Leonard Cohen influence, and Leonard himself would be proud of a phrase like "Episcopal philanthropists.” Hello Starling is a work that soars with real grace.
(Signature Sounds)

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