By about the fourth track of Sarah Jarosz’s sophomore album Follow Me Down I was wondering just who she had accompanying her on this release, because the instrumentation really is sublime. Imagine my surprise to find then, in my naivety, that she plays banjo, mandolin and guitar herself, she’s not just the voice and the pretty face.
There was equal surprise to find that this young girl who is virtually unheard of in the UK has co-produced with Gary Paczosa and has not one, or two, but at least half a dozen stalwarts of the bluegrass and acoustic music scene featured on her latest album, including Jerry Douglas, Shawn Colvin and Dan Tyminski. Further research also revealed a Grammy nomination, amongst other accolades, and a raft of praise from the American press. Yikes, how have I missed all this? The answer is probably that, although her debut album Song Up In Her Head was released to critical acclaim in the US, it has yet to be released in the UK. She also only began her first ever tour over here this week. I feel a little better.
Leaving aside the back story for a moment, Follow Me Down is undoubtedly an assured gem of an album which belies Jarosz’s tender years and showcases her ability to give any material a stamp of originality. Her reworking of Bob Dylan’s hymn Ring Them Bells is a highlight, and she also bravely tackles Radiohead’s The Tourist. Edgar Allen Poe’s final Poem Anabelle Lee is carved into a haunting banjo driven affair with equal success. Elsewhere Old Smitty and Peace show off her instrumental ability, and the likes of Run Away and My Muse prove she has potential as a songwriter as well.
Whether she’ll become, as at least one publication has suggested, the next Alison Krauss is still debatable. Mainly though because Jarosz seems to have enough originality to make her own mark, rather than emulating somebody else’s success. That she has the talent, however, is quite undoubted.