Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
The mega-talented Sarah Jarosz seemed a bit surprised to discover that at the same time she was performing in The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, a Led Zeppelin tribute band was cranking it out in The Egg’s Hart Theatre. “I’m sure they’re rockin’ out over there,” she told her nearly sold-out crowd, “but we’re rockin’ out in our own way.”
Fortunately, there was no sonic bleed from somebody pretending to be Jimmy Page as he scraped his violin bow across his guitar strings, and Jarosz’s little trio did indeed deliver a simply mesmerizing performance.
Still a couple of months shy of her 21st birthday, Jarosz – on spring break from her studies at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music – was brimming over with talent and a natural charisma, as she fused together elements of bluegrass, folk and country music while switching between guitar, mandolin, banjo and octave mandolin.
And, oh yeah – she sang like an angel, too.
Backed up by violinist Alex Hargreaves (who is studying at the Berklee School of Music) and cellist Nathaniel Smith (currently a student at the University of Alabama), Jarosz led the compact but oh-so-versatile trio through her haunting, high-mountain adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabelle Lee,” a shimmering rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” and a fleet-fingered medley of Tim O’Brien’s Celtic instrumentals (in honor of St. Patrick’s Day). Then she capped it all off with a rousing country-gospel treatment of Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House” for her encore.
But Jarosz is also a devastatingly good songwriter, as she proved with the dark, brooding “Run Away,” the buzzingly melodic “Here Nor There” (sounding like an outtake from the Beatles’ psychedelic days) and the sweet, chamber-folk ballad “My Muse,” which resonated with echoes of both Shawn Colvin and Joni Mitchell.
If there was any problem with Jarosz’s performance, it was simply that, at a mere 75 minutes, it was too short. She could have played for another hour easily without a single member of the audience moving their seat.
The evening kicked off with a mighty fine opening set from Lera Lynn, which made for a truly delightful double-bill of exciting, young talent. While Lynn didn’t possess the same level of confidence and charm that Jarosz exuded, the Georgia-based singer-songwriter and her guitarist-vocalist Ben Wills delivered a crackling half-hour set of country-based tunes – ranging from the harmony-laden bluegrass classic “White Dove” to a thoroughly unexpected, yet wholly convincing re-invention of TV On the Radio’s “Wolf Like Me.” And like Jarosz, her original songs – especially “Don’t Make Me Wait” and “Bobby, Baby” – were even better than her well-chosen covers.
SARAH JAROSZ SET LIST
Kathy’s Song (solo) (Paul Simon)
Ring Them Bells (Bob Dylan)
Tell Me True
Here Nor There
Land’s End/Chasin’ Talon (Tim O’Brien medley)
Song Up in Her head
Come On Up to the House (Tom Waits)