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    Josh Ritter commanded The Louisville Palace stage as the opening act for Jason Isbell last night. Flanked by a guitarist, bassist and drummer, Ritter glowed in the center of the Disney-like magic that is The Palace, repeatedly saying, “This is an amazing place to play music.” I couldn’t agree more.

     Guitar held high, Ritter possessed a Johnny Cash style swagger. He’s got the smooth demeanor that makes it easy to get lost in his lyrics of love, loss and inner demons, much like the Man in Black. Ritter bounces between songs in a meld of contemporary folk, Americana and hints of bluegrass. It’s difficult – but perhaps not important – to contain his sound to one genre. A perfect example of this was “Girl In the War” with tight harmonies and a slightly heavier sound, followed by “Long Shadows,” an acoustic guitar heavy, lighter tune like that of typical Americana.

    At one point, his smile lit up as bright as the blue-lit mountain backdrop. The appreciation from his fans was palpable, and by the end, it was hard to stay in our seats as he ended the set with his most recent single from the album Sermon on The Rocks, “Getting Ready to Get Down.” The uplifting vibes were the perfect segway into Jason Isbell’s set. Isbell, an equally introspective songwriter, kicked off with a more electric and country sound. Backed by more guitars and louder drums, Isbell crooned the same themes of love and loss before slipping into quieter acoustic numbers detailing a working man’s blessings and sacrifices.

    The two singer-songwriters complemented each other in a way that made for a perfectly paired night of easy-listening and heart-melting.


    Photos by John Miller


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