vrijdag 17 januari 2014

Build me up from bones (2). Sarah Jarosz

Regular contributor to this blog, Erwin Zijleman, put me on the trail of Sarah Jarosz. His review let me no other choice but to listen to Build me up from bones. Over the past weeks I have done so regularly and found myself on this rollercoaster ride that went from brilliant to just regular and back. Finally I came up with the conclusion that this is an album that is more than worthwhile to listen to and spend time on to write an additional review for this blog.

Sarah Jarosz can be put straight into the alt.country corner and from there into the section where we find the pretty songs without taking them too far out to the sugar factory. Or so I thought at first listen. Most songs on Build me up from bones have this little extra which give them a special atmosphere of longing and some eeriness. This led me to conclude that it is mainly the singing that is pretty. Sarah Janosz sings with a clear voice and this can mislead the listener quite easily. There is more to Build me up from bones than I expected at first at first introduction. And again the voice of Sarah Jarosz is a main part of this. I'll get to that later.

Listening to the album I was instantly reminded of songs of Lucinda Williams, but even more of The Parlor Soldiers and Morgan Mecaskie. The traditional approach let me to Gillian Welch, as more people attested in the past. Alt.americana infused with singer-songwriter and folk elements and softly played, but rocking, guitars. In opening song 'Over the edge' this statement is made straight away. Next to two acoustic guitars, both doing these muted runs at moments, an electric guitar plays eerily haunted, slided notes, underlining the lyrics and the way of singing. This altogether makes 'Over the edge' a song full of tension, despite the sweet sounding voice of Sarah Jarosz.

Further into the record more familiar sounds of country come by. Violins, banjos and mandolins can all be heard. But every time the sound is subdued, like there is something lurking behind the curtain. Not so much physically, but still something that might be threatening the well-being of Sarah Jarosz. A good example is 'Mile on the moon' which seems to start at a more upbeat pace, but when the singing kicks in this is reversed again. And makes the album the more intriguing for it. It is the voice of Sarah Jarosz that sets this album apart from the fold. There is no happiness in sight, there is a veil over everything, without sounding depressing for one second. Her voice just begs listening to, drawing the listener into the album. Build me up from bones is an album to grow a relationship with. An album that could have the impact on Sarah Jarosz' career like 'Car wheels on a gravel road' had for Lucinda Williams. I like Build me up from bones better, a lot better.

Sarah Jarosz is only 22, but has a recording contract for none more than six years already. The Austin, Texas native already has three records and one live album to her name and is seen as very talented in the U.S. This is an easy conclusion after listening to Build me up from bones. The comparison with Gillian Welch is not so strange, but Jarosz is less traditional and certainly less heavy to digest. Sarah Jarosz on Build me up from bones has found a mix between traditional americana and a popfeel that is not often heard in alt.americana. The clarity of the production, which she did together with Gary Paczosa, certainly adds to this feel. Every instrument finds itself in the right spot and is heard, leaving room for emptiness in the production, but nothing ever is in the way of the vocals.

Among the eleven songs are two cover versions. The most telling, at least for me, is the very bare version of Bob Dylan's 'Simple twist of fate'. Sarah Jarosz totally pulls it towards herself and makes it her own. The other one is Joanna Newsom's 'The book of right-on'. (A song I cannot compare at this point in time.) The impressive thing is that the two songs take nothing away from her own songs. Except for the recognition listening to the album for the first time -Hey, a Bob song!- I've found that I just as gladly listen to 'Over the edge' or 'Gone too soon'.

Concluding it is quite clear that Build me up from bones is an album by a new talent in the alt.americana/country/singer-songwriter/folk part of the musical spectrum that deserves listening to. There's no other conclusion possible here.


You can listen to 'Build me up from bones' here.

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