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Preview Fri Apr 18 2014
Many critics pegged Josh Ritter's most recent release, 2013's The Beast In Its Tracks, as a prototypical "breakup" album, but the label does little justice to the album itself. Though written and recorded in the aftermath of a divorce, the record sets itself not in the pathos of the immediate fallout, but in that tentative, woozy period afterwards, when you dust yourself off and move forward. It's a more hopeful attitude than is found on most breakup records, and Ritter's perspective on relationships is an apt analogy for the perspective he takes in much of his songwriting; a dose of optimism that doesn't brush off the darker corners of his psyche or the world, but instead treats them with the complexity they deserve. That's not to say the album lacks darkness; one need only hear the acerbic punchline that concludes "New Lover" to dispel that theory.
Ritter is coming to Chicago next week to perform two solo acoustic shows at City Winery to debut brand new material that, according to the songwriter, arrived in an unorthodox manner. "About four months ago," Ritter recalls, "I was hit by a song on the New York Thruway. The whole thing. Verses, bridge, a witty one-liner or two. Nothing like that had ever happened with such force. It was the first raindrop in a thunderstorm that I'm thankful continues unabated." Ritter rarely unveils new songs before they've been run through the wringer of the studio process, so the City Winery shows indicate an intriguing new approach. He's riding a four-album hot streak (including 2006's The Animal Years, my pick for one of the last decade's most powerful and unheralded releases), and these concerts stand to shine some light on where he's heading next.
Ritter plays the City Winery at 8pm on Monday, April 21 and Wednesday, April 23 (I'll be attending Wednesday's show and will have a review of the evening on Gapers Block next week). Currently, tickets are available for both shows. On both nights, the doors are at 6pm, and you can find more information and purchase tickets at the City Winery website.