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The move proved to be a step in the right direction. Ritter began recording his second CD, The Golden Age of Radio, which made its way to a record executive at Signature Sounds Recordings. Its 2002 release of the CD landed Ritter in the public eye, where critics hailed his songs as "stunning," "elegant," and "damn near perfect." Later that month, Ritter met Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Irish band the Frames. Ritter was invited to tour with the band in Ireland, where his single "Me and Jiggs" entered the Irish Top 40. His sold-out shows there earned him an international following.

"Things really began to come together for me after that," says Ritter. "I was able to quit my temp jobs and focus on my music."

Things didn't just "come together"--they exploded. selected Golden Age as one of the best albums of 2002, and Hotpress, a bi-monthly Irish magazine, voted Ritter number one in its Folk/Traditional Act category. Music critics lauded his blossoming career in the pages of The Boston Globe, Details, Maxim, The Irish Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Ritter was invited to share the stage with folk star Joan Baez, and he received thunderous applause for his performance at the 2002 Newport Folk Festival.

And that was last year. Early in 2003, Ritter performed at the Sundance Film Festival with Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, Buddy and Julie Miller, and Doug Marsch. In April, his single "Come and Find Me" was featured over the end-credits of HBO's cult series Six Feet Under. And to top it off, Ritter was awarded the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) Foundation's Sammy Cahn Award for the year's most promising lyricist, as well as the 2003 Boston Music Award for Outstanding Male Singer/Songwriter.

Ritter's latest successes have yet to slow him down. In February, he and his touring band began work on Hello Starling, his long-anticipated third CD. Starling was recorded and mixed in 14 days at Black Box Studios in rural France and debuted at number two on the Irish charts soon after its release in September.

"I think the writing on this CD is the best I've ever done," Ritter says. "The songs are happy, and the music is very spring-like--organic, but lush. I wanted the songs on this CD to help people enjoy music in general, not just my music."

Ritter's assessment of his writing is dead-on and is receiving nods from his colleagues in the music business. The most recent came from Joan Baez, who recorded "Wings," the haunting ballad at the center of Hello Starling, for her own new CD.

With all of the media attention--and the formation of a Josh Ritter cover band in Cork, Ireland--it seems as though Ritter might let fame go to his head. Nothing could be further from the truth; his down-to-earth outlook on life keeps Ritter grounded in his music.

"For me, what this is really about is going out and playing for my audience as well as I possibly can," he says. "The moment you lose the joy in that, you should quit performing."

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Sue Angell '99 is a writer and editor for Oberlin Online.