Hello Starling is the third album by Josh Ritter, about whom I knew nothing when I came across this CD, but soon wanted to know more. A spell online revealed that he is a singer-songwriter and guitarist originally from Moscow ID who has been steadily building support since his first self-released album in 1999, particularly in his native States and in Ireland, where he initially toured supporting the Frames.
For this album, Dave Odlum from the Frames was enlisted as producer and the album was recorded over a fortnight in February 2002 in a converted dairy barn near Angers in France (also used by Dave Odlum for an EP with Gemma Hayes in 2001), and with Josh's touring band, augmented by Dave Odlum helping out on guitar and mandolin.
As a teenager, Josh Ritter had been inspired by discovering Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash playing together on the Nashville Skyline album, and has also acknowledged Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen and Gillian Welch among his influences (there is a nod to Townes Van Zandt on this album's Kathleen, also the title of one of his songs). He studied American History through narrative music at college, spending six months in Scotland at the School of Scottish Folk Studies, and also made a study of American religious music, American Civil War songs and late 19th century popular ballads, parlour songs and cowboy songs.
Although he has found his own voice and a clear natural style, it is clear from his stripped back approach and the meticulously recorded instruments that he has learned well and deeply from all these guiding legacies and adaptations. This album has been built to last and left one keenly anticipating the next.