In the upper echelon of today’s singer/songwriters, there’s a handful who could be counted among the literary elite—those whose lyrics are poetry that paints unique, evocative pictures—and Josh Ritter has long been considered near the top of that heap. His latest album is, among many other things, an absolute affirmation of this.
Gathering is Ritter’s ninth full-length studio album, coming off the heels of 2015’s Sermon on the Rocks. The songs were largely written in the aftermath of his highly fruitful collaboration with Grateful Dead co-founder Bob Weir (which resulted in Blue Mountain, Weir’s acclaimed 2016 album and his first solo studio album since 1978).
Every Josh Ritter album has been rooted in American folk traditions, but none have stitched together quite as many musical threads as Gathering. The album includes shaker hymns and campfire songs, spirituals and railroad rambles, country-western tunes and delicate waltzes, all combined into a deep and colorful tapestry backed by the Royal City Band. But while Gathering is rooted in the past, it never sounds staid.