Josh Ritter and Jason Isbell perform at College Street Music Hall


Josh Ritter and Jason Isbell performing at the College Street Music Hall in New Haven on Saturday, Oct. 8. (Christopher Mueller/The Daily Campus)

On Oct. 8, Josh Ritter’s upbeat and beautifully executed music echoed throughout the College Street Music Hall in New Haven. Ritter is an enthusiastic singer and guitarist who performs alongside his equally involved band, The Royal City Band. It was parents weekend at nearby Yale University, and a full crowd was in attendance for Ritter’s uplifting performance. Ritter’s performance complemented Jason Isbell’s act later on in the night well, as both artists share the commonality of caring deeply about their music.

Ritter is considered an Americana artist- a genre that is composed of blues, folk, rock and roll, as well as many other genres. This was apparent in his performance, as a new listener would likely have a hard time pinning him to just one traditional genre.

“Me & Jiggs,” a classic from earlier in his career, was one of the opening songs in his set, and clearly showcases precisely the feel-good music style that Ritter is known for. He details through his heavily narrative lyrics “a Saturday night” in his town, while still managing to carefully balance the melody in an interesting way. He strays away from the cliché style of songs about Saturday nights, while still maintaining the comfortable vibe a song such as that would entail.

The performance took a more serious turn with the song “Henrietta, Indiana,” another stunning narrative performance detailing a tragedy through a spiritual lens. The song is vague and mysterious, but provides room for interpretation and draws in the attention of the listener. It also contrasts Ritter’s normally energetic and mellow style, making the song even more unique.

Performances of songs like “Me & Jiggs” and “Henrietta, Indiana” were brought together by Ritter’s band, “The Royal City Band.” The band’s enthusiasm and care made the music more enjoyable. The musicians play a multitude of different instruments including strings, percussion and other folk-oriented instruments.

This concert is part of the tour for Ritter’s latest album “Sermon on the Rocks,” which came out in October of 2015. This album has a more diverse or modern feel compared to his previous work, and is certainly worth a thorough listen.

Jason Isbell took the stage and immediately capitalized off of the ambiance that Ritter and The Royal City band had initiated. Isbell’s music had plenty of energy to follow, almost so much that it felt louder than Ritter’s act. The volume of this performance even changed the frequency of the audience, from a mellow vibe to a more rock-and-roll centered theme.

The two went together very well chronologically, Ritter introduced the concert, while Isbell kept the wave going with his relentless energy. The event was a general success that anyone could have enjoyed, complimented beautifully by the gorgeous College Street Music Hall venue. If you try out Ritter or Isbell’s music and happen to like it, I highly suggest a visit if, and when, they return for another performance. You won’t be disappointed.

Christopher Mueller is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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