Release Date: May 17, 2011
Record label: Sugar Hill
Genre(s): Country, Folk
With a descending circular flourish of acoustic guitar notes, the bluegrass influence on Follow Me Down is evident, but the almost weightlessness suggests something else, something perhaps more. By the time the husky alto voice comes in, inviting us to “Follow me down through the cotton fields/ Moon shadow shine by the well/ Lead us down a road, where no one goes, we can run away…,” the bewitchment is complete. Sarah Jarosz, now 19, made quite a mark two years ago with Song Up In Her Head, but rather than hone the traditional Appalachian discipline, the sensualist singer explores the possibilities of acoustic/roots music — conjuring songscapes, erotic tableau and enough tension to hold listeners transfixed throughout Follow Me Down.
No one should be surprised that acoustic multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz can pick clean and fast. Jarosz’s first album showcased her ability to take on folk, country, and bluegrass music head on as well as cover rock songs with creative gusto. Jarosz does the same on her latest album, but she has expanded her musical palette and does much more.
You can anticipate objections to Sarah Jarosz's sophomore effort from a couple of different directions: those who saw her as someone who would make old-time country music attractive to the Twitter generation may feel that she's abandoned her sacred duty; others may suspect her of suffering from Elvis Costello Syndrome (which causes spoon-bendingly talented musicians to get tired of doing what their talents have made easy for them and to begin pushing the boundaries of their gifts, with sometimes embarrassing results). Neither objection would be correct. First of all, despite the fact that she plays clawhammer banjo and mandolin and is fluent in early-country vernacular, Jarosz's music has always been much more complicated than that; listen past the accent and the frailing on her debut album and you'll hear about eight or ten different musical genres jostling against each other.
As a precocious 17 year old, Sarah Jarosz made a phenomenal first impression on Americana audiences with her debut, Song Up in Her Head, and her sophomore album, Follow Me Down, is an even more impressive and progressive set. Traditionalists may bristle at the notion that they’ve lost yet another promising young talent to a more contemporary sound, but Follow Me Down proves that Jarosz has an intuitive grasp of traditional folk and bluegrass structures and a taste for more adventurous, modern song choices and arrangements. She isn’t at the level of, say, the Punch Brothers (who guest on the album), but Jarosz is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting new acts in Americana.
Sarah Jarosz in bloom is a thing of beauty. Her sophomore album opens with an invitation to follow her down to the cotton fields and beyond, and we will because Jarosz delivers on the promise of her stunning debut two years ago, Song Up in Her Head. The multi-instrumentalist's second album for Nashville, Tenn.'s premier roots and bluegrass label measures the giant steps her songwriting has taken on Follow Me Down, even as her ear for covers lends itself to Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells" and Radiohead's "The Tourist." Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabelle Lee" shines in a gritty arrangement.