Sarah Jarosz

Live Review | The Greystones, Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson

It really is encouraging to see any back room of any South Yorkshire pub filled to capacity for the purpose of good music these days and even more encouraging to see audiences arrive well in advance of the advertised start time in order to socialise with friends beforehand and also to nab a good seat.  The popularity of The Greystones is both testament to those who promote good music in this area and also to the standard of the acts they book to play; in fact so good, that I’m seriously considering moving to Sheffield immediately!  Tonight the back room of this pub soon filled up with music lovers eager to see the young (just 20 years old) and extremely talented Sarah Jarosz and her equally young and talented trio consisting of Nathaniel Smith on cello and Alex Hargreaves on fiddle and mandolin.  No support tonight, just two sets of songs and tunes from this Austin multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter.  No support necessary methinks.  Sarah’s obvious talents were rewarded with a fine kick-start, by having her first two records produced by Gary Paczosa and released on the renowned bluegrass and Americana label Sugar Hill Records.  With a first set comprising an equal selection of songs from each of those two records, her debut Song Up in Her Head and her follow up Follow Me Down respectively, Sarah soon had the audience spellbound with such songs as “Tell Me True”, “Left Home” and “Shankhill Butchers” from her debut together with her own “Run Away”, Bob Dylan’s “Ring Them Bells” and the atmospheric self-penned “My Muse” from her most recent release.  Joined on her current album by an array of bluegrass A-listers such as Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Darrell Scott and Chris Thile, Sarah managed to bring the essence of that album to this Sheffield audience with the help of just two musicians, making those absent singers and musicians on the record somehow un-missed.  Sarah’s knowledge of bluegrass and old time music is intriguingly blended with her own sense of the contemporary, mainly carved out of her love of British rock bands such as Radiohead.  During the first set it was revealed that this current tour heralds Nathaniel Smith’s very first trip outside of the States, little wonder when we discover this extraordinarily good musician is but 17 years old.  Later in the second set, Nathaniel was rewarded with possibly the most enthusiastic applause of the night, no less than 32 seconds of it – count it, it’s longer than you think, for his part in Sarah’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate”, which has to be witnessed to be believed; a most excellent performance and quite possibly the crowning moment of the concert.  Along with the two Dylan covers, Sarah paid tribute to a handful of other writers who have each helped shape her distinctive sound with Gillian Welch’s “The Devil Had a Hold on Me”, Tom Waits’ “Come Up to the House” and Patty Griffin’s “Long Ride Home” together with a couple of Tim O’Brien fiddle tunes, featuring Alex Hargreaves’ fluid fiddle playing.  Allowing her fellow musicians a short break, Sarah started and finished her second set with two solo performances, first the beautiful “Gypsy” from her current album and finally, serving as an encore right at the end of the night, “Little Song”, the song that also closes Sarah’s debut record.  I don’t think there was a single person in The Greystones tonight who wouldn’t have missed their last bus for just one more song.  Superb.