VAIL ——Singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz was just finishing school at the prestigious New England Conservatory as she was releasing her third album. Yes, you read that right. At only 23 years old, Jarosz has her name on not one but three albums. “Build Me Up From Bones,” came out nearly a year ago — in September 2013 — and nabbed 2014 Grammy Nominations for Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Song for the title track.
“It’s the truest representation of my music at this point,” she said. I wanted to create a rollercoaster of different sounds, emotions and feelings, and not one even line. It has rocking numbers, and it also features the trio I play with — it incorporates those guys more. It feels true to me: unique and new.”
Though she plays the guitar, banjo and the mandolin, Jarosz isn’t a straight bluegrass artist. She fits in the middle of the Americana-contemporary folk-roots music triangle. The Austin, Texas native headlines the Vail Summer Bluegrass Series in Lionshead Wednesday night. Jarosz, joined by cellist Nathaniel Smith and fiddler Alex Hargreaves, will deliver a two-set performance with no opener, a slight variation from the series’ first two performances.
“Sarah plays what I think is called an octave mandolin, which is similar in nature to a baritone sax in comparison to the alto — it’s extremely unique,” said show promoter Ariel Rosemberg. “She performs alongside a fiddler and cellist, which is also unique from the Vail Bluegrass perspective. While still bluegrass, it’s truly rootsy and stripped down and will be a perfect match for the Vail Bluegrass stage.”
Adding Jarosz to the lineup was a “no brainer,” Rosemberg said.
“There are elements of authenticity and uniqueness that come along with her music and performances that will really shine through, as Vail does in summer,” he said. “She’s also been involved in the Colorado music scene for quite some time, having performed at several Planet Bluegrass events since age 11.”
Talk about sweet 16: Jarosz signed with Sugar Hill Records at the same age most teenagers are learning how to not wreck the family car. Called a “prodigy” by many, Jarosz has toured the United States extensively, as well as Canada and the U.K. She just returned to the U.S. this week from a run of shows in the United Kingdom and her very first dates in Ireland. Stops on the tour included Kilkenny’s Set Theatre, Galway’s Campbell’s Tavern, London’s Bush Hall, Oxford’s St. John The Evangelist Church and two days at the 50th Anniversary of the fabled Cambridge Folk Festival.
Jarosz’s two previous records (“Song Up In Her Head” and “Follow Me Down”) received high praise from outlets including Rolling Stone, New York Times, USA Today, Paste, Mojo, Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter, and she has received multiple Grammy and Americana Music Association nominations. That’s a pretty remarkable resume for a woman just out of college.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a person, especially in these last few years. I latched onto music as a child and it became my main way of expressing myself. But through college I got into other creative outlets: art, painting and poetry. It helped me to come back to music in a deeper way, to follow deeper trails and meanings and feelings.”
Four of the 11 songs on “Build Me Up From Bones” mentions the moon in some way. The song “Mile on the Moon” has a familiar folky presence, and ethereal lyrics: “I dreamed we fell into the night/ Your darkness shined the brightest light/ We drove for miles on the moon/ I’d go anywhere with you.”
She says the theme wasn’t planned, but perhaps lunar forces were subconsciously at work.
“I never go into a record thinking I want a recurring theme throughout. But after the fact — and I certainly didn’t plan this —there are four songs that mention the moon in some way. For me, songwriting is an ever changing nature; it’s always fresh, and the moon is sort of like that: always changing, always pulling.”
Closing the Vail Bluegrass series on Aug. 27 is Colorado’s own Drew Emmitt Band (of Leftover Salmon) performing with Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition winners, Trout Steak Revival.
While the Vail Summer Bluegrass Series is free to attend, there are a limited number of preferred seating tickets for Wednesday night’s show still available for $15.
Visit www.vailbluegrass.com to learn more.