Just a few days short of 20 years old, Sarah Jarosz has attracted the attention it takes some musicians a lifetime to garner.
Before moving out of her teens, the Texas native released a critically acclaimed debut album, received a Grammy nomination, appeared on "Austin City Limits" and "Prairie Home Companion" and performed at several major music festivals.
Playing since age 10, Jarosz is already a master of the mandolin, guitar and banjo. Her singing and songwriting are on their way to being of equal measure.
Because of her young age and her immense talent, Jarosz was quickly labeled a prodigy upon her emergence in 2009 with "Song Up In Her Head." She was immediately embraced by Americana fans and musicians.
Out of interest of widening her musical knowledge and skill, Jarosz accepted an invitation to attend Boston's New England Conservatory to study contemporary improvisation. Jarosz concurrently completed her second year of college and finished her sophomore album this past spring. "Follow Me Down" was released on May 17.
"Follow Me Down" expands past the rootsy sound of "Song Up In Her Head," with Jarosz adopting a more progressive stance. An impressively malleable artist, Jarosz welds traditional and modern into a refreshing form.
Exposure to a number of styles through educational opportunities, as well as her own personal music tastes, command Jarosz's innovative approach. "I'm influenced by the older and the contemporary and the new," Jarosz said.
The acoustic "Follow Me Down" features familiar bluegrass and folk instruments in inventive arrangements that are pleasing to both the staunchest of traditionalists and those with more liberal music tastes.
Two equally haunting songs serve as evidence to Jarosz's versatility. "Annabelle Lee," an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's last poem, is delivered as an old-timey ballad, while the Beatle-esque "My Muse" takes on a more contemporary feel.
Jarosz's playing skills prove laudable as always in instrumentals "Old Smitty" and "Peace." While her mastery of instruments is key to her presentation, the focal point for much of "Follow Me Down" is Jarosz's soothing alto and flowing lyrics. Wearing the musician, singer and songwriter hats all at the same time, she appears flawless.
Perhaps an indicator of the impression she has made on her peers in her short career, Jarosz, along with producer Gary Paczosa, was able to obtain a who's who of guest performers for "Follow Me Down."
Famed dobro-player Jerry Douglas of Union Station appears on six of the album's songs. Bela Fleck and Casey Driessen are essential to the pace of the adventurous "Come Around." Shawn Colvin, Vince Gill, Dan Tyminski and Darrell Scott are among the harmony vocalists, chosen to perfectly compliment the song choice and Jarosz's voice.
As with the harmony vocalists, Jarosz's couldn't have found songs more appropriate to cover for "Follow Me Down." With no discredit to her originals, the two cover songs are the most memorable of the album.
In line with her folk tendencies, Jarosz delivers an unparalleled version of Bob Dylan's hymn, "Ring Them Bells." A much more surprising choice, "The Tourist" from Radiohead's "OK Computer," is indicative of Jarosz's modern influences. Joined by The Punch Brothers, Jarosz's harmonies with Chris Thile are mesmerizing.
With "Follow Me Down," Sarah Jarosz finds herself distanced the comparisons to other artists made from "Song Up In Her Head." Her new album continues to pull from her roots background, but also finds Jarosz branching out and in her own self-determined direction. The musically curious Jarosz is ever-learning explorer who has no fear of going out on a limb.
"Follow Me Down" was released on Sugar Hill Records. For more on Sarah Jarosz, visit sarahjarosz.com.