Monday, July 27th, 2009

Sarah Jarosz – Left Home

First Jukebox entrant to have played Mandolin Mayhem (dream on, Ms Larsen)…


Ian Mathers: Jarosz was apparently a bit of a mandolin prodigy, playing out in Nashville at 13, and now that she’s 18 she’s got an album out. And “Left Home” is certainly a more nuanced and accomplished song than you’d expect from someone her age; add that to the fact that Jarosz has a lovely voice and the fine playing throughout and you’ve got a winner; or at least you do if you instinctively love bluegrass the way I do (which makes my normal disdain for country in general a bit weirder).

Hillary Brown: Dude, Sarah Jarosz, it’s like you made this song for me. The only way to bump up a nicely trad bluegrass number like this, rendered in your pretty voice, would be to incorporate some positive statements about public transit. Bing!

Martin Kavka: My memories of sitting at ice houses in Houston have never been as palpable as when listening to this track. How refreshing that it hasn’t been Rick-Rubined to death.

Chuck Eddy: The string instruments have some color to them, and to their credit don’t absolutely succumb to bluegrass’s country-answer-to-Yngwie-Malmsteen tendencies. Sarah Jarosz, to her credit, doesn’t quite warble like a total priss. But when she says she’s ready to fly, I don’t believe her, since this song never makes it off the runway.

Anthony Miccio: The extended passages of instrumental bluegrass, warm and comforting, don’t help the placid Jarosz make something of her professed wanderlust. This would be a lot less pretty without them, though.

Michaelangelo Matos: The roomy production and instrumental interplay are fairly nice, but I consistently lose interest within a minute, and the dishwater vocals haven’t yet brought it back.

Martin Skidmore: The music is very nice, nimble bluegrass with good playing on several instruments – I liked the fiddle best, but Sarah’s mandolin is good too. I like her voice less – it’s throaty and rather flat, and hard to understand, as if she is too focused on playing to concentrate on her singing, which surely can’t be the reason on a recording. The song barely exists.

Alfred Soto: As a statement of purpose, the instrumental flourishes with which Jarosz buttresses the lyrical declarations of independence work quite well on their own. The song isn’t much more than these gestures, though, but if she’s traded feedback and guitars for multitracked vocals and fiddles they’re still enough to get her noticed.

John Seroff: Jarosz’s youth is hidden behind a confident, self-assured voice and a technically adept hand on the mandolin, but it’s there in the romantic naivety of her lyrics (“tonight/public transportation’s my private ride”) and the fragile quaver that marks the ends of her phrases. “Left Home” is a lovely mix of the susceptible and the jaded, old bluegrass tricks and sweet green embroidery. I would’ve appreciated a bridge that expanded on the song’s musical themes and a few more challenging breakdowns, but it’s a debut. There’s definitely room ahead for improvement and maturity in Jarosz’s work, but when your juvenilia is this strong, you have my undivided attention.

Anthony Easton: Want her voice to do weirder and wider work. Some of the traditional covers do similar things to Alistair Roberts, which means I will most likely buy the album.

2 Responses to “Sarah Jarosz – Left Home”

  1. I didn’t make the comparison in the blurb, but people who dig this and would like something somewhat more polished should hunt down the work of Cia Cherryholmes.

  2. The singing reminds me of the Dixie Chicks going “contemplative” like in “Silent House,” and while Sarah doesn’t get close to the Dixies here, because she like billions of others can’t match up to Natalie, I would listen to more by her. Wish she’d trash the mandolin and can the band, though, ’cause the instrumental solos are godawful, intrusive, total irritants.