‘Gathering’ is Josh Ritter’s 9th album, born from a 20-year career of folk-rock. The album is an anthology of sophisticated offerings that makes Ritter’s experience shine through. It’s a commendable progression from his earlier efforts such as Hello Starling, with new introductions of electronics and higher production that take his classic folk-fusion into new depths. There is an inviting blend of fragile vulnerability and playful frankness to this record which allow it to stand alone from a genre that is often neglected by many.
Gathering displays the capabilities of a practised folk artist on tracks like Thunderbolt’s Goodnight, nodding to his influences such as Leonard Cohen, with a fusion of soft vocals and coarse instrumentation. New airs sneak in on Showboat- arguably the most ‘single-worthy’ song on the record, with catchy six strings and wistful keys. This track presents a tongue in cheek likeability similar to Father John Misty.
This likeability plummets on track ‘Friendamine’ however, when an irritatingly repetitive white wash takes over and becomes a parody of itself, picking out the clichés of folk and wafting them in your face. These moments cheapen the record making it sound like a soundtrack to a cyclic comedy skit.
Luckily, Gathering is salvaged by the darker and richer moments on Feels Like Lightning, that fails to plateau despite being simplistic. It comes to life when the moodier instrumental layers come into play, with a lavish texture that makes it one of the easiest listens on the album.
The better treats on Gathering are those that come with a deeper, darker manner. Train Go By is a nostalgic subterranean track. Despite the lyrical content being of a duller nature, it feels to be the most anticipative offering from Ritter.
Dreams is a highlight of the album, with a darker tone that features a stormy piano that accompanies Josh’s ramble- a lyrical prime of the record as he mumbles “dreams keep coming”.
Josh Ritter journeys through Gathering with huge variation. Moments can pass you by insignificantly, yet others demand your undivided attention. He flicks between maturity and innocence. His boyish charm echoes on Showboat, crooning “every time I think of her I wonder if she thinks of me” in an almost playground dilemma. Despite this, the majority of the record sees this singer-songwriter as a mature wine, rich and seasoned, yet Josh Ritter still holds ample potential for more material in the future.