Published on November 23rd, 2013 | by Stratton Lawrence0
Review: Sarah Jarosz and Brian Wright Dazzle at the Music Hall
Sarah Jarosz w/ Brian Wright
Charleston Music Hall
Fri. Nov. 22
The median age at Friday night’s Sarah Jarosz show was somewhere near the cumulative age of the three baby-faced musicians on stage. That likely has something to do with the 22-year-old Jarosz’s performance at Spoleto USA last year, but also belies a serious lack of awareness among Charleston’s younger bluegrass-seeking crowd about her serious chops and prodigious songwriting.
Weaving through a set heavy on material from her third solo release, Build Me Up From Bones, Jarosz traded off between clawhammer banjo, flat-picking guitar, and face-melting mandolin riffs.
Backed by violinist Alex Hargreaves and cellist Nathanial Smith, Jarosz often held back and let the boys do the musical talking. Smith, in particular, amazed with his ability to seamlessly fluctuate between finger-picking and bowing his cello.
When she did open up and let fingers fly, Jarosz demonstrated that she’s a strong enough musician to hold her own with any Nashville player, showing off dexterity with a roaring take on Béla Fleck’s “Puddle Jumper” and a grooving rendition of Joanna Newsome’s “Book of Right On” (as well as her songwriting collaboration with Darrell Scott, “1,000 Things”).
Other highlights included “Run Away,” played by request for an 8-year-old girl, two Bob Dylan tunes (“Simple Twist of Fate” and “Ring Them Bells”), and a set-closing solo take on Paul Simon’s “Kathy’s Song.”
Fortunately, most of the audience arrived on time for opener Brian Wright. The Texas-bred, Nashville-based songwriter held his audience captive with stories of growing up outside Waco (“Red Rooster Social Club”) and with murder ballad “Maria Sugarcane,” which remained light thanks to his expert banter between (and during) his songs.
Ultimately, it may have been Wright who made more of an impression on new listeners, although the depth of sound that emerged when the Jarosz trio took the stage was startling.
At 22, Jarosz is already a seasoned veteran on stage. It’s exciting to see her talent develop, and promising that her latest batch of songs is as instantly memorable as her first two. Now her challenge is to turn Charleston listeners in her own age bracket onto that talent.
All photos by Hunter McRae / Hunter McRae Photography.
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