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CD: Sarah Jarosz - Undercurrent | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Sarah Jarosz - Undercurrent

CD: Sarah Jarosz - Undercurrent

Country-tinged US singer-songwriter's fourth matches musical virtuosity with emotional punch

Things are looking down

The fourth album from 25-year-old Texan singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz is a beautiful mope. It’s country-flavoured but is neither overflowing with syrupy emotion, nor honed to flinty Cash/Rubin desolation. Jarosz, who recently graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, hails from a 21st-century milieu, far from cotton-picking and moonlit porch banjos echoing across the sagebrush.

Discovered, while still at school, by Alison Krauss/Harry Connick Jr-producer Gary Paczosa, and signed since to his label, Jarosz's Undercurrent, also produced by Paczosa in his Nashville studio, is a fine-crafted, pristine affair. It's the kind of venture I usually find considered to the point of soullessness, yet her songs have emotional guts, and when she wants to, she can wrench the heart.

The album is boosted by its wide-open space productionJarosz’s musical compadres are cosmopolitan “adult listening” mid-level success stories such as Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins, Pictures and Sound’s Luke Reynolds, bluegrass virtuoso Aoife O’Donovan and fellow singer-songwriters Parker Millsap and Jedd Hughes, all of whom contribute to the playing and the song creation. The result is something delicate but spacious, recalling Daniel Lanois’ production of Emmylou Harris, but by way of Joni Mitchell’s desire for musical exploration.

The opening couple of songs set the tone – “Early Morning Light”, an exquisite “love’s leaving” number, and “Green Lights”, which is buoyed by idyllic free-floating guitar. The mood throughout is forlorn, apart from the cheery “Comin’ Undone’” (“Whenever I feel I’m comin’ undone the song in my head keeps me marching along”), but each song carefully, classily prises open its emotional content, especially on the love-in-secret song “Everything to Hide” and the probably metaphorical “Lost Dog”.

The slow-rolling Dave Gilmour-goes-country guitar solo on “Back of my Mind” is especially tasty, but the album’s standout track, for concert encores and such, is the single “House of Mercy”, a cowboy blues with cosmic heft. In fact the whole album is boosted by its wide-open space production which, combined with such fine songwriting, pushes it from the polite to somewhere far more enjoyable and affecting.

It recalls Daniel Lanois’ production of Emmylou Harris, but by way of Joni Mitchell’s desire for musical exploration


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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