Sarah Jarosz’s impeccable new bluegrass-folk album

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Sarah Jarosz’s third album comes together into such a staggeringly flawless compilation that it’s hard to determine the steps the album takes, even though you end up in a new place at the end of the journey. The astounding mastery of the mandolin, banjo and guitar and her honey-smooth voice all combine effortlessly with her memorable lyrics. Jarosz wrote wrote nine of the 11 tracks on Build Me Up From Bones, fleshing out the set with covers of Joanna Newsom’s “Book of Right-On” and Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate.” Together, these songs create her strongest album yet.

It’s not until the title track that the album takes shape into an easy flow. Her video for the song contains a simple set with her and the other members of her recording and touring trio, fiddler Alex Hargreaves and cellist Nathaniel Smith. The simplistic, static, almost sitcom-like set looks straight out of an episode from 70’s TV. It gives the song a rustic, but timeless, feel. Jarosz showcases her remarkable vocal range by singing subtly on this bluegrass-tinged song, with eloquent, Joanna Newsom-level lyrics such as “The moon’s a fingernail / Scratching on the back / Of the night in which we lay beside.”

Her usual bluegrass and folk sound is accompanied by so many genre-bending sounds. “The Book of Right-On” is heavily influenced by jazz (This one’s my favorite…but with lyrics like “I killed my dinner with Karate / Kick ‘em in the face” how could it not be?). You can distinctly hear the rock ‘n’ roll in her voice in “Over the Edge,” and Americana in “Dark Road.” Jarosz’s predilection for weaving charming, vivid imagery continues in “1000 Things” where she characterizes, or really personifies, the theme of youth. She has the ability to so seamlessly flow in and out of these different genres in such a way that you don’t necessarily even realize how profound it actually is.

Upon another listen to a few of my go-to female bluegrass favorites, I tangibly recognize just how well-trained and sophisticated Jarosz truly is. She is a more subtle Kendl Winter (but just as lovable) in the finesse of musical talent and personality. She is taking pieces of something such as Julie Peel’s “Alone” (from Near the Sun) but doing so with a quality that makes her music stickier and noteworthy in ways these artists never could. This album makes me think that since she has broken a line between herself and these artists that can tour around and get a crowded room, she has potential to fill a theater. There is so much promise that lies in her natural talent, ambition, and fine musical education that I have no doubt she will continue to pump out deep, insightful albums, even during her busiest days (three albums during college! Damn.).

Jarosz is taking the U.S. by storm with the tour of Build Me Up From Bones, and coming to Austin at the Paramount theater on November, 7th.

– Bailey Cool