Josh Ritter is frequently tagged with the descriptor "Dylanesque," an adjective that is usually too broad to mean much of anything. Does that reference folkie Dylan, plugged-in iconoclast Dylan, religious zealot Dylan, or frog-voiced elder Dylan? But the comparison is actually suitable for Ritter, a singer-songwriter who amped up his sound on his latest album, 2007's The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. That excellent disc still shows off Ritter's quiet side, as well as the incredible facility with metaphor and wordplay that has earned him the comparison to the demigod of all troubadours, on gentler tunes like "Naked As a Window" and in particular the lyrically dense ballad "The Temptation of Adam." ("What five letters spell apocalypse, she asked me," Ritter croons, before answering his own riddle, "WWIII.") But it's the jolting, band-backed tracks that drive the record, from the rapid-fire "To the Dogs or Whomever," which indelibly invokes the verbal blitzkrieg of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," to the percussive gunfighter's lament "Mind's Eye" to the wry "Next to the Last Romantic." Ritter's show at the Varsity will include his full band, which should guarantee a lively performance. Of course, the only true way to follow in the footsteps of Dylan is to be an ever-evolving artist with a sound all your own. Ritter certainly has that—and what a sound it is. With Joe Pug. 18+.
Thu., July 9, 7 p.m., 2009