Hailing from the small town of Moscow, Idaho, Josh Ritter's songs are a rare gift of natural, intuitive beauty. Born in the late '70s to two neuroscientists, Josh bought his first guitar from the local K-MART after hearing the Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash classic "Girl from the North Country." He began Oberlin College with the intent to follow in his parent's scientist footsteps, but instead, discovered songwriting and the music of artists like Gillian Welch, Townes Van Zandt, and Leonard Cohen. He graduated and then moved east for its close proximity to historic folk clubs like Club Passim in Boston. On a shoestring budget he recorded his critically acclaimed break through album Golden Age of Radio in 2001 at various tiny, one-room studios on the East Coast.
In the fall of that year, Josh pressed up several thousand copies of Golden Age, which quickly sold and funded more touring. A copy found its way into the hands of Jim Olsen and Signature Sounds Recordings, and the record was released nationally in the US in January 2002. Critics called the modest album "stunning," "elegant," and "damn near perfect," landing Josh in the pages of Details, The New York Times, and Maxim. "Come and Find Me," the modest anthem of Golden Age, was featured over the end-credits of HBO's uber-hip series Six Feet Under, and several successful tours followed.
Meanwhile, at a Boston open mic that spring, Josh met Glen Hansard, the lead singer of The Frames. Hansard invited him to open a string of shows for the band in Ireland. Josh's career took flight in Ireland, buoyed by the single "Me & Jiggs," which entered the Irish Top 40 and helped gain Josh full blown cult status, complete with sold-out headline tours, late-night TV appearances, and his very own cover band in Cork. Josh ran the gamut at the Irish "Hot Press" Reader's Poll Awards, landing in the Top 5 for Best International Folk Act, International Male Songwriter, and International Male Singer, putting him in the company of Springsteen, David Gray, and Johnny Cash.
Josh would spend much of 2002 splitting his time between the US and Ireland, sharing bills with such eclectic artists as Beth Orton, Liz Phair, Damien Rice, and Joan Baez, as well as a celebrated appearance at the 2002 Newport Folk Festival. In the process, he garnered impressive acclaim not only for Golden Age of Radio but also for his richly textured and intimately engaging live shows. Publications like The Village Voice, The Washington Post, and The Irish Times scrambled to describe what made Josh's music so "stunning." Sold-out shows in New York, Boston, and Dublin, as well as a trip to the Sundance Film Festival kicked off 2003 in style.
In February of this year, rested, refreshed, and more than ready to make a new record, Josh entered Black Box studios in rural France with his touring band and Irish producer David Odlum (The Frames, Gemma Hayes) to record Hello Starling. Recorded and mixed in only 14 days in an old dairy barn in the French countryside, the thick stone walls, high ceilings, and vintage gear (much of it Curtis Mayfield's old equipment), made for a record which sounds conversational and honest and shimmers with a new-found confidence. The 11 songs on Starling retain the feel and flow of another era; these are catch-tunes and earnest lullabies that rekindle the warm glow of a young Springsteen or Leonard Cohen in both their literacy and honest enthusiasm. "Kathleen," a summer anthem about waiting around a party to drive a girl home, is a live favorite; "Rainslicker" moves and sways with all the dust-stained imagery of the Clientele; and the show-stopping beauty of "Baby That's Not All" suggests an artist at the peak of his new-found powers.
The legendary Joan Baez recently recorded "Wings," the haunting ballad at the center of Starling, for inclusion on her new album, placing Josh alongside artists such as Gillian Welch, Steve Earle, and Natalie Merchant.