Traditional yet ambitious.
Sarah Jarosz, the Texan born singer-songwriter's sophomore effort 'Follow Me Down' is a disc brimming with ambition, diversity and passion. The singer has only just turned 20 years old but the strength and depth of the record hints at a maturity and talent beyond her years. Jarosz sings and writes very much in the tradition of the folk song. Her voice sounds like a youthful Joan Baez; angelic, haunting and powerful and her subtle and relatively minimal background music only serves to accentuate her soft and airy vocal delivery. Jarosz is so steeped in tradition in fact that she pays homage to one of her folk heroes with a cover of Dylan's 'Ring Them Bells', which she unquestionably makes her own, imposing her own stern individuality onto the track.
The rootsy album opener 'Run Away' is an exercise in poetic liberty, as Jarosz invites us through 'cotton fields' to share her view of America, it's prosperous nature and it's unique landscape, harking back to a time when America was full of innocence and simplicity before it became tainted by its superpower ideology and status whereas 'Here Not There' features a guitar part reminiscent of the Beatles' 'Norwegian Wood'. 'Annabelle Lee' is a majestic track that benefits greatly from the clashing and harmonious vocal support from Dan Tyminski and is a lilting tune that once again evokes the beauty of American nature, yet sounds strangely like traditional murder ballad 'Henry Lee' popularised by Nick Cave. However, aside from keeping with the fabled folk tradition, Jarosz's ambitious streak is truly revealed as she attempts a ballad-esque re-imagining of the Radiohead classic 'The Tourist', and it pays off. This song again, like the Dylan cover, is stripped down to suit Jarosz's sombre and passionate vocals and sounds just like one of her originals. This young singer-songwriter certainly cannot be accused of being a one-trick pony, appearing to possess much spirit and ambition to broaden her musical horizons.
Ultimately, 'Follow Me Down' is a strong and fresh second album from a singer-song writing only at the beginning of her career. The record meanders and over-indulges in places but that's all part of artistic freedom, isn't it? A haunting, melancholic and majestic slice of Americana.