Josh Ritter at the Knight Theater tonight (7/26/2012)
JOSH RITTER It’s no surprise that this spud-fed spawn of Idaho neurosurgeons is both brainy and earthy. But troubadour, raconteur and budding novelist Josh Ritter also knows his way around inventive arrangements and killer hooks. His freshman novel, Bright’s Passage, has been praised for compressed lyricism on par with Ray Bradbury’s, and that same haunting and magical wordplay populates his songs. Lyrics both Dylan- and carnival-esque unfold in delicate, uncluttered compositions that build to majesty. Jaunty humor also joins the fray, particularly on the murder ballad mash-up “Folk Bloodbath,” Ritter’s foray into Nick Cave-ish goth-opera territory. True, Ritter sometimes hews too close to his influences, with arrangements relying too much on “Everybody Must Get Stoned” B-3 organ. It’s also been charged that his songcraft is too perfect and pristine, and that his muse is more intellect than soul. His wide-open Celtic heart recalls The Waterboys, and his surreal folkloric storytelling nods to John Prine, proving that mind and emotion need not be exclusive. Ritter is trawling mythic waters both deep and wide. With David Wax Museum. $25.50-$29.50. 7:30 p.m. Knight Theater.