LIVE: Sarah Jarosz @ The Egg, 3/9/17

Review by Steven Stock

Fresh from picking up a pair of Grammy Awards – Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Performance – for last year’s album, Undercurrent, Sarah Jarosz enchanted a near-capacity audience at The Egg last month.

Backed by Jeff Picker on double bass and Anthony da Costa on guitar, the 25-year-old Texan deployed her multi-instrumental prowess (on guitar, mandolin and octave mandolin) and smooth, beguiling voice in service to some of the most striking original material you’re apt to hear this year.

To be sure, there were some choice covers in Jarosz’s set: Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells,” Guy Clark’s “Baton Rouge,” the Trio’s “High Sierra” and Nanci Griffith’s “I Wish It Would Rain,” but frankly they were eclipsed by Jarosz’s own very personal songwriting. The title track from 2013’s Build Me Up from Bones was an early-set indication of Jarosz’s precocious wisdom and maturity.

While her music is firmly grounded in the folk-country-Americana tradition, it benefits from a harmonic sophistication most vividly expressed when da Costa switched to electric guitar and unleashed sinuous lead lines reminiscent of the Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly (not your usual folkie reference). This is one trio unlikely to be confined to any particular pigeonhole. Other highlights of their scintillating performance included “Annabelle Lee,” “Over the Edge” and “Jacqueline.”

Although this was only their second performance as a duo, openers Rayna Gellert and Kieran Kane melded their talents seamlessly. Gellert’s fiddle playing has been widely acclaimed since her days with Uncle Earl (incidentally one of Jarosz’s favorite bands when she was a teenager), while Kane has released a succession of strong albums (solo and collaborative) since his ’80s tenure with the O’Kanes. The duo’s easygoing style may come across as casual and laidback – they make performing look easy – but there was no mistaking the quality of their songs, their picking and especially their lovely vocal blend.

NOTE: If you missed Jarosz at The Egg, you’ll have a chance to redeem yourself soon, as she’ll be performing at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill on Friday, July 14.

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