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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jarosz stays strong on 2nd album

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sarah Jarosz
Sarah Jarosz makes you laugh, she makes you cry. Her voice is comforting and haunting. The music comes from someplace traditional, yet modern.

It's music of beauty and contradictions.

And it all works wonderfully. It was outstanding on her debut album, "Song Up In Her Head," and again on "The New 45" EP, a two-song teaser between her first and second album.

Her wonderful voice was on display no better than on "Queen of the Silver Dollar," from last year's Shel Silverstein tribute "Twistable Turnable Man." On that record, her voice far outshined those of veteran songstresses Lucinda Williams and Nanci Griffith.

This young lady is a force of nature.

As such, the quality of Jarosz's second full-length release "Follow Me Down" is delightful, yet not at all surprising. In just more than an album's worth of work, she set the bar high, then sailed right over.

With her ability to play mandolin, octave mandolin, clawhammer banjo and guitar and her voice (Ooh, that voice.), Jarosz could well serve as a one-woman band. She opts instead for a little help from her friends, with expansive, multi-part arrangements and a lineup of guests that includes Shawn Colvin, Bela Fleck, Vince Gill, the Punch Brothers, Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski.

Her fellow artists are taking notice of Jarosz's talent even more than the fans and critics.

Like most successful current acoustic acts, Jarosz displays an innate ability to seamlessly blend her influences, from old-time to pop. Opening track "Run Away" sounds at first like a soft, simple acoustic number, but builds steadily until a short electric guitar solo emerges just before the two-minute mark.

It's not the sound the track began with, yet not at all out of place.

A number of other originals such as "My Muse," "Gypsy" and "Annabelle Lee" give us a taste of Jarosz's ability and range as a songwriter. Instrumentals "Old Smitty" and "Peace" are a delight.

Maybe most interesting are her two choices of covers on the record. "Ring Them Bells" is an immediate standout, showing -- for about the 10,000th time -- how well Bob Dylan's songs lend themselves to covers.

Much more surprising, though, is here choice of Radiohead's "The Tourist." Although taken from "OK Computer," the album on which Radiohead began to turn toward an electronic sound, Jarosz and the Punch Brothers capture the song perfectly with voice, mandolin, banjo, violin, bass and guitar. Oddly, the arrangement isn't much different than the original.

Maybe you can't say much more about Jarosz and her music than that: she's the link between bluegrass and Radiohead.

My spin: A-

As a singer, songwriter and player, Sarah Jarosz is second to none. By the way, she turned 20 years old a week after the release of "Follow Me Down."

For fans of modern bluegrass, this isn't a record to be missed.

Sarah Jarosz, Follow Me Down

Released: May 17 on Sugar Hill Records

Producers: Gary Paczosa & Sarah Jarosz

Learn more at: www.sugarhillrecords.com or www.sarahjarosz.com