Listen to an early stream of Josh Ritter’s Gathering, catch him at Free at Noon this Friday

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Josh Ritter | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | http://jeremy-zim.com/

A highly anticipated album suddenly popping up on NPR Music’s First Listen feature is always the most welcome surprise — even more so when it’s the joyful sounds of Josh Ritter. If you’ve been waiting patiently for Ritter’s upcoming ninth studio album Gathering, the wait is over a little bit earlier than we thought. Yes, the album will still be officially released Friday, Sept. 22 via Pytheas Recordings, but until then, you can enjoy a free stream of the Gathering in its entirety over at NPR.

And what an album it is. The 13 new tracks span over 50 minutes and even after nine albums and a 20-year career, Ritter still manages to pack Gathering full of surprises. The album opens with gospel-tinged a cappella intro “Shaker Love Song (Leah)” and continues through a winding journey with an unexpected sonic turn at every corner. The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir joins Ritter for a duet on the quiet and contemplative “When Will I Be Changed?”. Other standouts include “Dreams,” a reflective spoken word track filled with intriguing sounds, as well as the rousing and upbeat “Showboat.”

Ritter wrote an essay for NPR in July about the process of making Gathering. He said of the album:

This record is the product of a strange and interesting time. When I started writing Gathering, I felt tired of living in the shadow of my earlier self, my earlier work — but more than discouraged, I felt charged with the possibility and the freedom of cutting myself loose from my own and others’ expectations. I began with an exciting sense of dissatisfaction, and what emerged, as I began to find my voice, was a record full of storms.

Josh Ritter joins us for a Free at Noon concert this Friday. RSVP for that here — and act fast; Ritter last played Free at Noon to a sold out crowd in 2015. Watch a video of that performance below. If you can’t make it Friday, Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band will play Union Transfer on Nov. 5 with support from Good Old War. Tickets and more information on that show can be found on the XPN Concert Calendar

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