Josh Ritter

In the Dark: Live at Vicar Street

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Quibbles about the DVD half of this two-disc set aside (some American purchasers have had difficulty getting their players to cooperate), In the Dark: Live at Vicar Street, recorded over two spring nights in 2006, gets to the heart of what makes Josh Ritter more than just another folkie. In a word, it's spirit: from fan favorite "Me & Jiggs" to "Leaving," the audio disc's closer, Ritter rips through these songs as though he's been waiting years to play them. It helps, for sure, that his Irish audience is so receptive -- the howls go up especially for the sweetly romantic "Kathleen" -- but song for song Ritter's sure-footed way with his tunes and his deep desire to connect with his listeners speak loudest. Live recordings sometimes rob subtleties from the music; here they're reinforced by sheer will. Ritter, on In the Dark, comes off as both a likable guy and a strong, skillful showman.

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