Sarah Jarosz: Deft Musicality at Station Inn (Concert Review)
It was another sold-out night at Nashville’s Station Inn, this time for Sarah Jarosz, the fresh-out-of-college folk/bluegrass phenom. Flanked by a couple of string players (Nathaniel Smith on cello and Alex Hargreaves on fiddle), Jarosz opened her first set with the Appalachia-tinged “Tell Me True” which found her deftly handling a banjo. Indeed, the whole trio’s musicality was evident from the opening strains. And, in an age of so much technology, there’s something refreshing and hopeful about seeing young people inhabit traditional musical forms.
A couple tunes later, Jarosz switched axes for the title track from her latest album, Build Me Up from Bones. In it, and other renderings, were vocal echoes of Lori McKenna, although Jarosz offers a smoother timbre than does McKenna. She wears it well, so long as you aren’t expecting any sort of vocal gymnastics. Jarosz unleashes the flash via her fingers, as on the instrumental “Old Smitty” where she really cut loose on the octave mando.
The up-and-comer shows her true chutzpah, though, in choosing to cover Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right-On.” Though doubters gonna doubt, the quirky number lends itself well to a bluegrass translation — much better, actually, than the Decemberists’ “Shankill Butchers,” another cover tune that followed.
Jarosz and company brought the audience full circle with the banjo-laden Appalachia sound of “Fuel the Fire” serving as an apropos coda to the first set. (Special guests were promised for the second half of the performance, but another show at another club was on the evening’s docket.)
Raising money for the Lyons County Flood Relief Program, Jarosz did herself — and the bluegrass community — proud, here in Nashville. One small complaint, though… It’s worth noting that Smith could tone his physicality down a bit so as not to be such a visual distraction. His dramatic flair was reminiscent of drummer Ashwin Sood, who draws the audience’s eye to him, rather than letting it rest on the artist he’s supporting.