On the opening night of their UK tour, there’s no better setting for Sarah Jarosz and band mates Nathaniel Smith and Alex Hargreaves than an intimate venue to match their unplugged set. In this arena their instruments ring out with a purity which, combined with Sarah’s passionate vocals, culminates in a set filled with covers, instrumentals and some of the stand out tracks from her two albums. With opener Tell Me True setting the pace for the evening, it’s more than evident that the trio are talented musicians with a knack of bringing depth to their sound.
Falling into the ‘we tune because we care’ camp, they bring a maturity to their blend of bluegrass and country, and whilst I’m not normally a fan of instrumentals I can’t help but be drawn in by Old Smitty, captivated by both Nathaniel and Alex’s flailing arms. Lyrically, subject matter ranges from the more personal My Muse to the Edgar Allen Poe inspired Annabelle Lee, whilst musically we’re granted a more melancholic cover of Tim O’Brien’s Foreign Lander and the uptempo self penned Floating In The Balance.
No stranger to delivering other people’s songs, tonight they’re in abundance with Jonna Newsom’s The Book of Right On, The Decemberists Shankill Butchers and Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate. It’s here Sarah really begins to highlight her depth of interpretation, moving the songs away from their original format and adding her own emotion which is written all over both her vocals and her face. Elsewhere, her solo rendition of Gyspy with just her acoustic guitar for accompaniment showcases her voice, and whilst at other points in the night she seems to struggle fractionally with the notes, here it is flawless.
With less of a push for her most recent album, there’s a good array of songs from debut Song Up In Her Head with Edge of a Dream, Broussard’s Lament and the title track all making their way into the set, but ultimately it’s the more recent Come Around which is the stand out of the moment of the night. With Nathaniel’s sharp staccato providing the beat, Alex weaving a harmony and Sarah picking at her banjo with vehemence, it combines into a frenzied number which truly highlights their capabilities.
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