Even by the standards of his long and successful career, Josh Ritter is having quite the year. He’s toured the globe off of last fall’s eclectic Sermon on the Rocks, his 8th studio album, including a current run of dates with alt-country messiah Jason Isbell, played a high-profile Red Rocks gig with fellow Midpoint artists Elephant Revival, and co-written an album of cowboy songs with the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. Raised in Idaho, schooled in northern Ohio (Oberlin College class of ‘99), and now a resident of Brooklyn, Ritter has charted a course through American folklore that has taken him to unexpected realms of narrative (including in his debut novel, Bright’s Passage) and songcraft. His characters have found love and doomsday in missile bunkers (“The Temptation of Adam”), bourbon-drenched actresses on silent movie sets (“Lillian, Egypt”), and companionship in the very vessels that bear them into the Arctic (“Another New World”).
His set at Midpoint will be his fourth Cincinnati show in as many years, most recently a date on Leap Day this past winter. When CincyMusic’s Caitlin Tracey-Miller interviewed Ritter in advance of that gig, he was excited at the prospect of bringing Sermon’s songs on the road with him. “The funny thing about these songs is they’ve fallen into a set in a really great way, they feel very natural together. I think ‘Young Moses’ and ‘Birds of the Meadow’ straight out of the gate are some of the more electrifying moments of my career so far. I’m pretty psyched about it.” He also gave a bit of insight into the vivid historical settings in which his songs take place. “History, for me, I don’t study it, I run through it, and there’s a lot of stuff that fascinates me on the story front. There’s not a time that isn’t full of portent, and that’s great. You can pick up any book off a shelf and find a story in there.”
Midpoint Music Festival, Elliot Stage
5:30-6:15, Sunday, September 25