Josh Ritter is one of the most respected young singer-songwriters working today. A modern day Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, Ritter has developed his inimitable strength for storytelling over 15 years and seven studio albums. 

On his latest album, The Beast in its Tracks, Ritter tackles perhaps his most challenging subject yet in the dissolution of his marriage to musician Dawn Landes.

"I don’t want to write about breakups, but this was a major moment in my life," he says over the phone. "It's not just a breakup, it's the crumbling of this institution that I really believe in. To not write about that would be dishonest."

It makes the winter setting for this exclusive live performance of "Heart's Ease" all the more poignant, which was recorded on a frosty February day in the small town of Wakefield, Que.

"I've been to Wakefield three times before, but only ever in the winter," he says. "I really love it. We’re constantly touring, but we rarely get to play small towns, so there’s just something magical about it. Wakefield is just one of those places that I really like to go back to."

As for playing the studio songs live, Ritter says there's just something about the setting that brings out more in the song.

"When you play live, there's almost like a one-upmanship happening. We all want to just add that one more element that is going to enhance the song, so it creates a really fun atmosphere."

Ritter plays the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on April 16.

Follow Jesse Kinos-Goodin on Twitter: @JesseKG

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posted by Jesse Kinos-Goodin on Mar 27, 2013