Review and photographs by Tim Mack
The Sarah Jarosz pictured on the cover of her most recent album, Build Me Up From Bones, has a somber look, her hair up swept, with a high-necked collar and lipstick, her gaze focused just beyond the camera. The Sarah Jarosz who took the stage at The Egg last Friday night wore an easy smile, a bright summer dress and casual cowgirl boots, as if she were dressed for a night with good friends. Which it was.
Returning to Albany nearly two years to the day after her last appearance on the Swyer Theatre stage, the now 22-year old Texan showed a comfortable confidence in her stage presence, her bandmates and the very appreciative and attentive audience that came out to see her.
Jarosz showed a virtuoso’s flair across four instruments – mandolin, octave mandolin, banjo and guitar – but it’s her voice that put fans in the seats and kept them rooted through her 80-minute show. It’s a voice that’s powerful, nuanced and country. Not country in the contemporary Big Hat/Music Row/Nashville sense – though she could certainly handle that style if she chose – but rather country in the traditional folk sense: the high, lonesome sound of the Appalachians or the North Woods mixed with the homespun Americana of her native state.
Among the many highlights of the evening were “Build Me Up From Bones,” “Gone Too Soon” and the spare, melancholy version of Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate.” It’s one of the best songs on this most recent album, and while in person it may have tested the lower limits of the singer’s vocal range, it struck a powerful chord with the audience.
If Grammy-nominated Jarosz is herself a prodigy, she’s found two kindred spirits in her accompanists, the equally accomplished and youthful duo of Alex Hargreaves on fiddle and Nathaniel Smith on cello. The trio seemed at ease with their instruments and each other in equal measure.
On the new album and on this night in particular, Jarosz showed her command of a lyric was equal to her work on the strings. But she didn’t hesitate to perform the works of other great poets, covering Dylan (“Ring Them Bells,” as well as “Simple Twist of Fate”), McCartney (“On the Wings of a Nightingale” written by Paul for the Everly Brothers) and even Edgar Allen Poe (“Annabelle Lee”).
The opening act at the Swyer, Dietrich Strause, was one man with a guitar and some wry stories to tell about life on the Ponderosa, about different David’s clash with a Goliath, and about the perils of last minute Christmas shopping. He’ll be supporting Jarosz through much of her 2014 tour.
Recently, Jarosz has played the Troubador in Los Angeles, “Austin City Limits” and Conan O’Brien’s TV show. In the coming months, she’ll play everywhere from Corvallis (OR) High School to Bonnaroo. But she was as happy under the Swyer lights in Albany on Friday night as she could be on any other stage, with an excellent performance that satisfied fans and suggested her best is yet to come.
Bokonon’s review at Nippertown
SARAH JAROSZ SET LIST
Tell Me True
Build Me Up From Bones
Mile on the Moon
Grey Owl/Red Dog in the Morning
Gone Too Soon
Simple Twist of Fate
Over the Edge
On the Wings of a Nightingale
Ring Them Bells
Fuel The Fire