Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter loves playing in the mountains, and recalled that his first Telluride-area show was nine years ago, at the former Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. (Courtesy photo)

Since opening Club Red in 2014, Denise Mongan has booked hundreds of artists, but one musician she’s always wanted to showcase has been Josh Ritter. The singer-songwriter has been to town previously for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. After five years, Ritter will play the Mountain Village venue Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.

“This is his first time at Club Red and it’s not for want of asking, my friend. I am quite a Josh Ritter fan,” Mongan said.

Tickets, which can be purchased online at clubredtelluride.com, are $40 for general admission and $65 for preferred seating. As of press time Friday afternoon, ticket sales were strong, and Mongan was anticipating a “full house” (so don’t sleep on reserving a seat). Ritter’s Tuesday night concert with his touring mates in the Royal City Band is his only stop in Colorado during this string of Western shows. “He’s just popping through,” as Mongan put it.

Mongan, who was born and raised in Ireland, explained that Ritter is a “household name” on The Emerald Isle and she’s been a fan for most of his career, which started in 1997.

“I don’t know if it’s in my DNA or what, but he’s one of my Top 5 musicians of all time, really,” she said.

Ritter’s mix of country, alternative rock, folk and Americana makes for a unique blend that Mongan describes as “quite lively” and “very engaging.”

She also pointed to Ritter’s lyrics, which highlight his writing ability. (Ritter wrote a book, 2011’s “Bright’s Passage,” that Mongan said is “like a wonderful big song.”)

“He’s one of the happiest performers you’ll ever see. The man just smiles constantly,” she added.

Ritter’s latest release, this year’s “Fever Breaks,” was recorded in Nashville’s famed RCA Studio A, produced by Grammy-winning country crooner Jason Isbell and features Isbell’s backing band The 400 Unit. Basically, it’s a badass record. (Isbell will be in Telluride to headline July’s Ride Festival.)

Rolling Stone magazine said “Fever Breaks” is “classic Ritter on Muscle Shoals-bred steroids.”  

Ritter, a self-described “mountain kid” who grew up in northern Idaho, is looking forward to his date with Telluride. He recalled his first show in the area nine years ago at the former Fly Me to the Moon Saloon: “It was hot and sweaty and crowded and happy. We had a blast that night. We can’t wait to come back for more.”

“I was raised in the mountains. I think I play best at high altitudes,” Ritter added. “My band? You’ll have to come along and find out if they can keep up.”

In answering questions about his live shows, Ritter displays a writerly knack for metaphors. He likened the in-person experience of performing before an audience to that of a thief visiting an art collection. 

“The songs are never truly real until they’re onstage,” he said. “Before that moment they’re like paintings in a museum. You have to pull them off the shelves, steal them away and set them loose before you can ever truly see what they can do.”

Ritter has 10 studio albums under his belt, and routinely receives high praise and accolades from music writers and fans. He’s collaborated with Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead, classical violinist Hilary Hahn and Joan Baez, and counts authors Stephen King, Dennis Lehane and Tom Ricks among his many fans. King even called Ritter’s 2006 album “The Animal Years” the best record of the year in one of his Entertainment Weekly columns. Lehane and Ricks have written liner notes for Ritter records, and so has director Cameron Crowe, another Ritter follower. In 2006, Paste magazine named Ritter one of the “100 Greatest Living Songwriters.”