While the title of Sarah Jarosz's new album, "Build Me Up From Bones", is taken from one of the songs on the album, it's also a pretty good metaphor for her musical career. Signing to Sugar Hill records in her Senior year of high school, Jarosz released her first album at the tender age of 18, then another at 20 while juggling a course load at the New England Conservatory of Music, and now with a freshly inked diploma and a road diary that would envy artists twice her age, Jarosz returns.
With each album, the audience has been able to watch her be "built up from bones," going from a young woman just learning how to pair her already dazzling instrumental prowess with a still forming lyrical voice on "Song Up in Her Head" to a young adult testing the boundaries of her newfound freedom on "Follow Me Down". Now, with "Build Me Up From Bones", Jarosz has officially found her voice.
The songs on "Build Me Up From Bones" find Jarosz using more first person narratives in her songs about love, signaling an increasing comfort in her own skin. Instead of "Song Up In Her Head's" "Virgin Mary, all dressed in blue, sings 'My First Lover' for an audience of two", we get "I held every inch of you, I wrote every line for you. I made time when time was all but gone."
Further evidence of Jarosz's maturation is that much of this album focuses on her and her touring band. She has collaborated with some big league guest stars on her previous albums and there's no shortage of them here with appearances by Aoife O'Donovan, Darrell Scott, and Chris Thile among others, but this record, more than all her others, belongs wholly to Jarosz, Nathaniel Smith, and Alex Hargreaves.
Of course, no Sarah Jarosz album would be complete without a few covers. In the past, she's taken on Tom Waits, Radiohead, The Decemberists, and even Edgar Allan Poe. Here she gives us two covers, Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate" and Joanna Newsome's "Book of Right-On." The great thing about Jarosz's covers is that her arrangements always bring something new to the old songs. On "Simple Twist of Fate", she strips the song down to bare bones along with cellist Nathaniel Smith so that Dylan's lyrics and Jarosz's beautiful voice carry the song.
But the cover star of the album, and one of the album's best overall, is Newsom's "Book of Right-On." Jarosz's jaunty arrangement is a perfect accompaniment to the surreal, almost absurdist lyrics. Vocally, Jarosz nails the perfect tone as well, realizing that you just can't sing lyrics like "I killed my dinner with karate" with too much gravitas. Jarosz adds just the right hint of winking playfulness to make the song work really well.
Other album highlights include Jarosz's co-write with Darrell Scott "1000 Things", "Dark Road", and "Build Me Up From Bones." But honestly, there are no bad songs on this album. There are no mediocre songs on this album. "Build Me Up From Bones" ranges from very good to excellent unwaveringly.
For years' music journalists have been calling Sarah Jarosz "the next Gillian Welch." If she can continue to grow with each subsequent album as she has so far, the next generation may very well be calling some young prodigy "the next Sarah Jarosz."
"Build Me Up From Bones" releases Sept. 24 from Sugar Hill Records.