I only came across Sarah Jarosz a couple of weeks ago when I heard her excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist Of Fate from her album Build Me Up From Bones but I quickly fell in love with both the track and the album. A quick Google revealed that she was playing here and so I had to go see her.
Opening for Sarah tonight is a young singer songwriter from Pennsylvania by the name of Deitrich Strause. At first sight, Deitrich may look around 15 years old but his songwriting craft and skilled guitar picking indicate that he has had considerably more life experience – he is actually in his late twenties. Strause is promoting his new album How Cruel That Hunger Binds but has just sold his last tour copy so is offering us the opportunity to buy a had-crafted download card for what ever price we would like to pay for it. Some less than subtle hand telegraphing suggests that a payment of around £5 would be considered as a suitable arrangement and as such, represents something of a bargain. He is definitely a talent to look out for.
Sarah opens with Annabel Lee from her second album Follow Me Down. Accompanied by Jeff Picker on stand up bass and Jedd Hughes on acoustic and electric guitars and backing vocals, Sarah shines on both claw hammer banjo and vocals. The remainder of tonight’s set pulls mainly from Build Me Up From Bones and the new album Undercurrent, plus a couple of covers. Jarosz is a skilled multi-instrumentalist, moving seamlessly from banjo to guitar, octave mandolin and standard mandolin. Jeff Picker’s bass playing provides a solid foundation for for Jarosz and Hughes. The latter, having followed in the footsteps of guitar luminaries such as James Burton and Albert Lee by supplying lead guitar for Emmylou Harris, is the perfect partner to compliment Jarosz’s playing. When he moves from acoustic guitar to electric and takes a solo, the result is a stunningly intricate piece of playing that totally avoids showboating and is completely in the service of the song. Hughes also gets the chance to take a lead vocal on a cover of Merle Haggard’s Workin’ Man Blues.
A pair of Tim O’Brian instrumentals, Lands End and Chasin’ Talon allow the band to fly with some intricate interplay between the three musicians, Jarosz’s mandolin playing being particularly outstanding. I suspect I’m not the only one here who is waiting hopefully for Simple Twist Of Fate to appear and when Sarah announces that she is going to play a Bob Dylan song that she has been playing for years, I can’t wait to hear it. It turns out though that she knows more than one Bob Dylan song and it is Ring Those Bells that get an outing tonight. It’s a great version so I’m not too disappointed. Jarosz ends tonight’s show with a hauntingly unaccompanied electric guitar performance of Jacqueline from her new album. A meditation on Jacqueline Onassis, it brings the evening to a poignant close.
If you haven’t yet discovered Sarah Jarosz, here’s her version of Simple Twist Of Fate: