It was rather jarring to discover that this young writer-singer-mandolinist is so quintessentially matured in her musical pen(wo)manship and playing. I'd not expected it to quite this degree. Of course, better ears than mine were already attuned: Chris Thiele, Tim O'Brien, Mike Marshall, Jerry Douglas, and, well, a wealth of the best this genre has to offer. Thus, Song Up in Her Head is an arresting romp, albeit more in a mellifluous vein than via high-octane barnburners, as Jarosz oft takes, even when dancing through the propulsive cuts, a gorgeously settled air in her work.
There are a few very engrossing instrumentals amid a sea of tracks featuring her sultry and somewhat diffident voice, but cue in on Shankill Butchers and you'll be irretrievably hooked. It's a cinematically moody threnody with floating airy lines and fog-beshrouded back hills, atmospheres ominous while hazily illuminated. The performances on each and every cut, however, are immaculate and well attuned to the group effort, a careful balance where the listener receives a beguiling tapestry with plenty of great individual effort but no overt grandstanding, harmony prevailing over all. Stuart Duncan turns in some superb fiddle lines throughout, especially athwart Sarah's clawhammer banjo in Can't Hide.
I cited her initially as a mandolinist. That's not strictly true, though it's her favored instrument. She also plays guitar, piano, and, as just mentioned, banjo. Jarosz has only been on the scene for half a decade but those first five debut years have been auspicious, jamming with estimables like Grisman and Scaggs. She's been writing and playing since a child—and, hell, she's still not all that much past that!—but was obviously serious as hell about it all, precocious even, because this is one thoroughly professional and exquisitely crafted disc. Sarah Jarosz, it is obvious, was born to be a singer and musician, and Song Up in Her Head will establish those credentials posthaste.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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