Listening to Josh Ritter‘s newest album Sermon on the Rocks repeatedly last month, I was struck by how different it was from his previous works. It possesses optimistic and upbeat feel, but still contains the strongly developed characters and stories Ritter is known for. Rolling Stone‘s recent review of the album really nailed my sentiments in their review when they said, “with his latest, Ritter has achieved the near impossible, fully reimagining his own art while still holding close to what’s always made him special”. I thoroughly enjoy his Sermon and, though I can’t tell yet if it one of the best albums of the year, I do know it has cemented Ritter’s spot as one of my favorite artists. Tracks like “Homecoming”, “A Big Enough Sky” and “Where the Night Goes” are immediate stand outs and, on stage at Rough Trade performing these (and other) songs, Ritter demonstrated more joy than I’d seen before. He always has the biggest of smiles but now he’s literally so overjoyed he’s leaping in the air. I was glad to see him in the smaller venue as his many theater shows in 2016 are not nearly as intimate. Tour dates are below.
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The ATO Records showcase announcement of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard doing a show from her side project Thunderbitch was perhaps the biggest surprise of CMJ week. Almost every major music reporter, photographer, blogger or industry type was there. The immediate area around the stage was basically all photographers as this was one of the first shows from Howard (as Thunderbitch). And it rocked.
CMJ Music Marathon is an endurance test. You can collect as many bands as you want—on any given day you can catch way more than a dozen if you are willing to work for it. On the third (and on the fourth) nights, I wasn’t pushing myself. I wanted to see John Grant ‘s newly added set at Rough Trade since I couldn’t make his set at Le Poisson Rouge on the last day. And I wanted to catch up with Quilt who I hadn’t seen in a while. I also got to hang out at Baby’s where a team from Mute Records was on site giving out stickers and albums (I got myself ones from M83 and from The Knife).
With CMJ Music Marathon underway, and PopMatters own showcase being held the same evening, the online music streaming site Pandora hosted a treat for its listeners on October 14th. They welcomed three country singers, two up-and-coming and one a bit more established, to perform at a free show. The genre doesn’t really get represented during CMJ and on top of that, Pandora selected only female artists to perform dubbing it “Women in Country”. The night also doubled as a charity event as money was raised for the T.J. Martell Foundation to help support Leukemia, cancer and AIDS research.
Treating it like a CMJ event, by where I mean I went into the show with the mindset to explore and experience music unknown (to me), I caught sets from RaeLynn and Cassadee Pope, the two newcomers and both participants of The Voice, missing Martina McBride. RaeLynn’s songs sounded weighted towards the more pop-friendly side of country while Pope’s tunes definitely were honed towards country, though her newest single, “I am Invincible” could mix in with Top 40 radio.
// Sound Affects
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