Friday, February 22, 2008

Sarah Jarosz impresses as Wintergrass opener

Wintergrass has been a champion of the youth movement in acoustic music—not just the crop of young bands like The Duhks, Infamous Stringdusters and Crooked Still who are playing here this weekend, but also the amazing bluegrass prodigies who we have watched grow up at Wintergrass and a few other festivals.

One of those kids is Sarah Jarosz, the 17-year-old Texan who first gained notice for her mandolin picking but is now emerging as a full-blown performer on every acoustic instrument but especially as a singer-songwriter. Jarosz opened the Wintergrass festival Thursday night fronting a musically inventive trio including teen prodigy compatriots Alex Hargreaves on fiddle and Sam Grisman on bass.

Jarosz alternated among banjo, guitar and her trademark mandolin on a series of her own compositions, both vocal arrangements and instrumentals, as well as some well chosen covers.

Like any young vocalist, she takes a risk singing love songs, but she comes close to convincing on the couple she tried. In her classy blue dress and high boots, she is emerging not only as a musician but as a young woman, a perspective best expressed in an original song performed solo on guitar, "End of a Dream," about wanting to figure life out, which she said was written only days ago.

After the solo, the band came back with special guest Aoife O'Donovan from Crooked Still, whom Jarosz called "one of my biggest influences," for a wailing duet on another Jarosz original. For an encore, Hargreaves, Grisman and Jarosz let loose some tasty blues licks on Tom Waits' "Come Up to My House."

Jarosz has something bigger in mind than being the next bluegrass sweetheart. She has the talent and poise to be something like a future Shawn Colvin.

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