The first thing that hits you when 22 year old Sarah Jarosz takes the stage is just how much she commands it. Voices hush and all eyes focus on the diminutive young lady with the mandolin. In an age when an artist is lucky to have half the audience lift their heads from their smartphone at the start of a show, it's impressive how much you can hear a pin drop as soon as Jarosz's foot hits the stage. But then at 22, Jarosz has a touring resume that would be the envy of most 30 year olds. She brought her impressive stage presence to Nashville's 3rd and Lindsley on Sept. 29 as part of Lightning 100's Nashville Sunday Night series.
Less than a week removed from the release of her album “Build Me Up From Bones”, Jarosz chose to warm the audience up with a familiar tune before launching into new material, kicking off her hour-long set with the standout track from “Follow Me Down”, the Poe inspired “Annabelle Lee”. It was a good way to start as it not only gave the audience something they knew to draw them in, it also is one of her most musically dense songs, giving her a chance to show off her superb backing band.
Cellist Nathaniel Smith and violinist Alex Hargreaves have been Jarosz's regular touring band for a while now and it shows. While Jarosz could have easily taken advantage of her name being the one on the albums and gone the “hired gun” route with a touring band, she has taken the Alison Krauss approach to touring, surrounding herself with a pair of musicians with the chops to match her instrumental prowess note for note. It's a smart move on her part as you can see on stage how much the three enjoy working together and stretching the limits of their already challenging music.
Jarosz debuted a number of cuts from “Build Me Up From Bones” for the Nashville audience including the title track, the Darrell Scott co-write “1000 Things” and the album's current single “Over the Edge.” She also performed both of the cover songs from the album. Bob Dylan's “Simple Twist of Fate” has never sounded better than it has here and Joanna Newsome's “Book of Right-On” got a delightfully playful arrangement that allowed Smith a well deserved bit of the spotlight.
But it was in the instrumental tracks that you truly got to see how tight these three musicians have become since they began touring together. “Old Smitty” from “Follow Me Down” and a cover of Bela Fleck's “Puddle Jumper” were jaw dropping in their intricacy and intimacy.
After the Lightning 100 radio broadcast ended, Jarosz took the stage alone for one final number exclusively for fans in attendance at 3rd and Lindsley. She spoke of her work on the “Transatlantic Sessions” and her first visit to Scotland, before launching into a gorgeous cover of Simon & Garfunkel's “Kathy's Song.”
Joining Jarosz for this show was label mate Brian Wright, a Texas songwriter and recent Nashville transplant. Taking the stage with just a guitar, Wright's set impressed. His lyrics hit that sweet spot between poignant and witty that every good Americana songwriter strives for. Wright's stage banter is also hilarious, with the audience cracking up at his story preceding "Rosalee" where he explained that he wrote the song for his wife, who liked it so much she decided to name their recently born daughter for it. Wright exclaimed that it was very uncomfortable singing some of the song's more amorous lyrics now that his baby daughter's name was on them.
Tonight is this Examiner's third time seeing Sarah Jarosz in concert, the first time being in 2010 at the Americana Music Festival. In that time her live presence has grown immensely. The insane instrumental talent and angelic voice has always been there, but the confidence that comes from years of touring has matured Jarosz into one of the brightest stars Americana music has to offer today.