Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sarah Jarosz

Her MySpace page identifies her from Austin, but as a real local, I'm proud to point out 17 year old high school senior Sarah Jarosz (pronounced Jah-Rose)whose debut album has just been released on Sugar Hill Records, is actually from the small hamlet of Wimberley, where I've had the pleasure of watching a community raise a great musician.

Kris remembered she showed initiative at kindergarten age when she volunteered to lead the assembly at St. Stephens School in singing "It's A Grand Old Flag." My memories are a sweet kid with supportive parents hanging around the edge of the Friday Night Picking Sessions at Catfish Charlie's, strumming her guitar or mandolin along with everyone else in a large picking circle led by Mike Bond. By the end of junior high, she was leading picking circles on her mandolin and clawhammer banjo at parties that our neighbors Alan Munde and Kitty Ledbetter throw, fingers blazing, but always in an understated manner. Then came standout performances at the Old Settler's Music Festival, gigs with the Austin Symphony, national appearances, numerous YouTube vids, a jam with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Uncle Earl, and European tours. Now comes her recorded debut, supported by the likes of Tim O'Brien and Chris Thiele of Nickel Creek.

So what's inside Song Inside My Head ? An album's worth of wonderfully atmospheric acoustic music, most of them originals that sound ancient, along with a few smart covers, such as the Decemberists' "Shankill Butchers" and Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennen "Come On Up To The House" that sound equally timeless. Collectively, they show an exceptional instrumentalist and a distinctive, still developing voice on the cusp of greatness. Her foundation may be bluegrass but no way does she fit into that box. Rather, Jarosz is a voice (and a stylist) who is already fully-developed, but young enough to be fun keeping up with over the years. Since she's headed to the New England Conservatory of Music after she graduates from WHS this spring, I'm looking forward to what comes next almost as much as I'm enjoying her engaging sound in the here and now.

Way to go, girl.

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