Lost Tracks: Sarah Jarosz

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Sarah Jarosz's "Song Up in Her Head" is the best album you didn't hear in 2009. With this debut, the 18-year-old Jarosz (pronounced juh-ROSE) blends folk, bluegrass and pop, firmly aligning herself with Chris Thile, Ben Sollee and a host of other young, innovative bluegrass-influenced acoustic musicians, several of whom appear on the record.

Jarosz, who plays mandolin, piano, banjo and guitar, displays some of her widespread musical influences with two select covers. Her version of The Decemberists' "Shankill Butchers" seamlessly fits into roots music's extensive library of murder ballads; Colin Meloy's eerie lyrics, delivered by Jarosz's rich alto, make the song sound as though it's a relic unearthed from some deep Appalachian holler that just happened to have a toy piano. The other cover, "Come On Up to the House," is more inviting than Tom Waits's original and reminiscent of progressive bluegrass band the Duhks.

Alongside those covers are 11 original tracks that display a startling maturity in both composition and lyrical content. The Grammy-nominated "Mansinneedof" is a delicate, playful instrumental, featuring two mandolins (one courtesy of Mike Marshall) and fiddle, while the old-timey "Tell Me True" finds her wondering, "Can we make this new love fit like an old shoe/Tell me, darlin', please tell me true."

If "Song Up in Her Head" is any indication, Sarah Jarosz -- currently in her first year at the New England Conservatory -- has a very bright future ahead of her.

-- Juli Thanki

Recommended tracks:

"Shankill Butchers," "Tell Me True," "Mansinneedof"

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