Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

On the Road – Josh Ritter in Maine

He’s back. The latest installment of the summer tour diary comes from Maine, where there’s a report from the Shangri La Festival. Josh Ritter plays the Electric Picnic on August 30 and the live album, “Live At The 9.30 Club”, …

Mon, Aug 11, 2008, 10:21


He’s back. The latest installment of the summer tour diary comes from Maine, where there’s a report from the Shangri La Festival. Josh Ritter plays the Electric Picnic on August 30 and the live album, “Live At The 9.30 Club”, is released here on September 5.

I’m just back in the door from a great trip up to Maine for things various. What an incredible state that is. It was fiercely contended for between the British and Americans during the War of 1812, and any trip there will make you happy or sad at the outcome, depending on what side of the English tongue you may favour.

The first reason for going was the Shangri La Festival in Blue Hill, Maine. Now Blue Hill is way up there. Not so far that it’s practically inaccessible, but far enough that it takes a little planning even in these latter days. My drummer Liam and I came up from New York City by air and then drove four further hours up into the woods, bordered on various sides at various times by the Atlantic Ocean, dense forests, small pastures, and the kind of stone walls and barns that imply a kind of truce with the weather and the foliage rather than a victory over them.

After the long drive, we pulled into the fairgrounds where a small but determined crowd of folks was already sitting in the sun listening to the singer on stage. She sounded really good. We got out and walked around the festival site and listened. I asked someone who told me that it was Juana Molina. After several years of hearing her music, my favorite being Tres Cosas, it was bizarre to come face to face with her out here at what seemed like the very edge of things. The day was a great one for music and people were excited. My great friend Erin McKeown, who gave me my first real advice as I was getting started in music, was there as were The Infamous Stringdusters, who I’ve known for awhile through Zack and the Cantab bluegrass scene in Boston.

When it came time for our show, the people that had come all that way to get there were loud and happy. It was really touching, actually. There weren’t very many of any of us at the festival but the ones that were there were determined to make it a great experience and it was. I was so proud to be there with my band. So proud. Inexplicably, my hand started bleeding during the show. It must have gotten caught on something and gotten cut, but it definitely added a bit of drama to the night as I bled my way through the set.

After we were done, I went out to say hello to folks and was met with some great signs that people had made for me for the occasion. One said “will you play beer pong with me?” loved hanging out with the people that came, many from as far away as New York. fter all this time it still amazes me the goodwill that is in the world. Thanks to Joel for this amazing festival. Next year it will be bigger!

From the fairgrounds, I drove the few short miles to the house of my friends Tom and Mary Kay Ricks. Both Tom (who is the author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq) and Mary Kay (whose great history The Escape on the Pearl I just finished) go up to Maine every year during the summer to write. We stayed up late, drinking wine and talking about our project and then spent the next day writing as first wind, then fog, then hail, then rain, rain and more rain pummeled the sea out the window. It was a welcome break from the traveling, but I was a bit nervous as I was going to record the next day with Sam Kassirer.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to be. After driving four hours back down the coast, I met Sam at Great North Sound Society and we settled in for three days of working on two of the weirdest songs I think I’ve ever written. Who knows what they’ll turn into, but it was a great deal of fun just being up there, drinking beer and playing a bunch of stuff.

Maine! There is more than a passing resemblance to Idaho, if you look past the wide geographical chasm in between. It was a great pleasure working and relaxing there this past week. Thanks to all who came to Shangri La, the Rickses, and Sam and Great North for the opportunity! As for the rest of y’all, see you soon!

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