Review: Josh Ritter Provides Yet Another Enchanting Interlude

Josh Ritter/Spectral Lines/Thirty Tigers
3.5 Out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Dedicated to the memory of his mother, Josh Ritter’s tenth album emerges as a thoughtful set of songs that boast the kind of atmospheric ambiance hinted at in the title. The themes are universal—and especially relevant now in this age of division and disconnect—all found within songs that explore the basic bonds of love, devotion, and what it means to hold fast to ourselves and each other.

Of course, Ritter’s no stranger when it comes to sharing such sentiments. Aside from the fact that he’s one of the most perceptive artists making music today, he’s also an acclaimed novelist, having authored two well-received novels, 2011’s Bright’s Passage and 2021’s The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All

Not surprisingly then, the music shared here is expressive and emotive, thanks in part to a sprawling back-up band that includes Jocie Adams (clarinet, synthesizers, background vocals), Matt Douglas (woodwinds), Zachariah Hickman (upright bass, electric bass), Rich Hinman (electric guitar, pedal steel), Shane Leonard (drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass), Kevin O’Connell (drums, percussion, electric bass, electric guitar) and Dietrich Strause (acoustic guitar, electric guitar), all in addition to Ritter multi-purposing an array of instrumentation all on his own. The result is a vivid and varied set of songs, from the subdued sound of “Sawgrass,”  with its hushed spoken word narrative, to the gentle shimmer and sway of “Horse No Rider” and the spunk and sparkle found in “For Your Soul.”

Nevertheless, it’s a mellow tone that mostly dominates the proceedings overall particularly on songs such as “In Fields,” “Someday” and “Any Way They Come.” On the other hand, the eerie atmosphere found in “Whatever Burns Will Burn” creates a somewhat mysterious mood that adds deeper depth and a somewhat surreal sound overall. 

The end result is an album that demands a concerted listen in order to fully appreciate all the tones and textures it has to offer. With Spectral Lines, Josh Ritter continues to blur the boundary between melody and mystique.

Photo by Sam Kassirer / Sacks & Co.

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