Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Jarosz’


I think we all had a tough time of it last year. I felt myself going through the mill, along with so many others. However, the experience resulted in a new collection of songs. Songs about love, loss and ultimately hope. And so my new album ‘The Fray’ will be released March 26th on Commoner Records/Thirty Tigers worldwide. Recorded at Real World Studios in Wiltshire and produced by Sam Lakeman and myself, ‘The Fray’ features guest performances from Sarah Jarosz, Bill Frisell, Lisa Hannigan, The Milk Carton Kids, Jess Staveley-Taylor and Courtney Hartman. Ordinarily I would hit the road for fifty nights to tour a new record. For this release however, I’ve put together a bunch of special signed pre-order packages, available only through my website. There are T-Shirt bundles, exclusive recordings, guitar lessons, private concerts, a high-quality ticketed livestream event on the weekend of release and more. ‘The Fray’ comprises twelve of the most personal and, I think, the most honest songs I’ve ever written. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Born in Essex, raised by the Devon seaside, and making his bones in the bars and clubs of Liverpool, John has released five albums with over 33 million Spotify streams.  He has played to audiences all over the world in living rooms, festival tents and sold-out concert halls. He is a genuine folksinger, an inquisitive truth-seeker, devoted song interpreter and enchanting writer.

Steeped in the lineage of British folk, taking his cue from Richard Thompson and John Martyn, Smith has evolved a transatlantic blend of fingerstyle and slide guitar techniques. John’s intimate takes on love, loss and the journey we make, combined with his innovative guitar work, have won him a loyal following.  His honey-on-gravel voice and mesmerizing fingerstyle guitar are undeniable. Sometimes using a slide, sometimes with guitar on his lap, sometimes detuning mid-song, John Smith’s obsession with the instrument has made a master of him. Whether by way of album or concert, he leads the listener, enthralled in his presence, on a viscerally emotional journey.

My new record ‘The Fray’ will be released March 26th on Commoner Records/Thirty Tigers worldwide! Ordinarily I would hit the road for fifty nights to tour a new record, but for this release I’ve put together a bunch of special signed pre-order packages, available only through my website.

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World on the Ground” is the fifth studio album by American singer–songwriter and I’m with Her member Sarah Jarosz. Produced by John Leventhal , the album was released on June 5th, 2020. The fourth track on the album, “Johnny,” a song with chord progressions reminiscent of the 1990 Nirvana song, “ Polly ,” 

“Johnny’s on the back porch drinking red wine/He knows that it could be the very last time/He raises the glass up to his lips and wonders.” This is the opening line to “Johnny,” the lead single from Sarah Jarosz’ fifth studio album “World on the Ground”. Jarosz didn’t do a great deal of press for the album – for obvious reasons, of course – and so there isn’t a great deal of information as to whether the story told in the song is real.

The titular Johnny is staring down the barrel as he prepares to go in for open heart surgery – one fast move and he’s gone. It’s a moment filled with drama and suspense, and its unresolved nature only drives the intrigue even further. Did Johnny make it? Where is Johnny now? Is he even real to begin with?

Who cares if Johnny is real? “Johnny” is no less authentic because of it. It’s a striking, harmonious and emotive slice of Americana. Its lines trace around a bright octave mandolin, Levon Helm-esque drumming and rustic close harmonies that tie well into Jarosz’s bluegrass background. It’s certainly poppier than her earliest alt-country work, but that too doesn’t make it any less authentic. Any less real. From the second its tape-loop drone guides you in to the second its strummed mandolin lick guides you out, everything in “Johnny” is as real as it gets.

If you have kept an eye on the career of Sarah Jarosz, you’ll be fully aware that she doesn’t limit the influences in her musical universe to just folk and bluegrass. From funky rootsy Prince covers to nailing a definitive version of a Tom Waits classic, it has been clear that she trusts her muse instinctively and puts her music and art in the driving seat. Very much like the character Eve sketched out in the opening tune on this album, Sarah keeps “following the sound”. It is certainly an opening number that sets its table neatly, preparing for the delights that are about to unfold for the listener. A small-town girl with a sense of wonder opens her heart and mind to the possibilities over the other side of the wilderness.

As the music swoons and soothes, Eve locks in her resolve and thickens her skin to protect against the world that will try to muddy her insides and corrupt the good inside. This theme is touched upon again on the second tune, the title track that is illustrated on the minimal yet arresting cover art depicting a brace of birds. “When the world on the ground is going to swallow you down, sometimes you’ve got to pay it no mind”.

Her stories are carved like a craftsman’s antique furniture, with an attention to detail and capacity for nuance lending these sketches a depth and realism that ensures repeated listening is a rewarding experience. And Sarah is far from simplistic in weaving these threads of escape and adventure, she knows that reality or tragedy is more than likely going to bite at some stage. Like the character on track three, who ends up back in her hometown with dreams that have been frazzled away. That song, ‘Hometown’, has the timbre of a classic Springsteen ballad, “on the verge of a breakdown, back in her hometown, never thought she’d settle down in a place like this”. There’s a theme of escape from the suburban backwaters, chasing dreams that have a habit of meeting a head-on collision with the harsher side of the real world, a solid touchstone for the Boss. 

Something in the creation and execution of these songs seems to state that this a musical talent on an upward trajectory. The songs are memorable, they are instant, they have thoughtful details and they overflow with drama, emotion and heart. Most of all they are little earworms and you will want to play them loud and singalong. It is that kind of album, stick it on while you’re cooking the dinner or sit down and listen properly. It works either way, Sarah Jarosz is pulling off that age-old musical trick here of being very, very good. I am going to be following her from here on in with high expectations.

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Folk singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz recently announced that her new album World On The Ground will arrive on June 5th via Rounder Records. Lead single “Johnny” landed on our best folk songs of the year (so far) list ahead of the next single “Orange and Blue.” Co-written with producer John Leventhal, “Orange and Blue” is a balance of longing to flee one’s small hometown and wanting to stay fully nestled in the comforts of home. Delivered over slow-tempo piano, Jarosz sings, “I think I found it now / And nothing else will do / a heart that burns to true / burning orange and blue.” Per a press release, the song was written in homage to her childhood home in Wimberley, Texas. World On The Ground is Jarosz’s fourth solo album, following 2016’s Undercurrent.

World on the Ground, though, is an act of looking inward, of keying into small details rather than grandiose ambitions. This is a smart idea. The album, Jarosz’s fifth, takes as its subject the space of central Texas, and the lives of the people there. (She hails from the Austin-orbit town of Wimberley, and currently resides in New York City.) In their unique ways, the ten songs that comprise World on the Ground feel like individual short stories, novelistic rather than journalistic in their detail. The perspective Jarosz takes in looking at her hometown the kind of view one gets of their home after spending many years away from it. Her mini-narratives reveal a deep love for her roots, a love that “burn[s] orange and blue” like a flame, as she puts it on second single “Orange and Blue”. These humane and sympathetic tales, like a good short story, paint a vivid picture from a small slice of life.

Looking at the career of Sarah Jarosz, one gets the impression that her world has never been bigger. Having broken into the Americana scene at a young age, Jarosz at 29 has four studio records under her belt. She’s toured the world both as a solo artist and as a member of the folk power trio I’m With Her, along with bandmates Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour) and Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still). She’s a regular guest on the national variety show Live From Here. Her last studio LP, 2016’s Undercurrent, earned two Grammy Awards, and she netted some additional hardware for I’m With Her’s 2019 tune “Call My Name”. It would be reasonable to think that, on the heels of such success, Jarosz might swing for the fences with her next album, especially given that in 2017 she was commissioned by the FreshGrass festival to write a lengthy composition that came to be called “The Blue Heron Suite”.

Sarah Jarosz’s “World on the Ground” is a heartfelt reminder that a period of flailing is temporary, often the period before a transition. The album’s title is derived from the track “Pay It No Mind”, where Jarosz takes on the vantage point of a fledgling inflight. As such, the album is a consideration of identity, a reflection of the past as an informant of the present while finding the artist squarely focused on the future. Jarosz tackles existentialism with a springy lens, she is clear-eyed and hopeful throughout. Her storytelling is compelling, often showing affinity with Gillian Welch or Mary Gauthier. As a multi-instrumentalist, she shifts between mandolins, multiple guitars, a claw-hammer banjo, and piano, all the while her vocals are at the forefront. She relies on folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, and bluegrass genres to centralize her roots but manages to define a musical space endowing Jarosz’s caliber. Listen closely, her drawl occasionally emphasizes her melodies while concretizing her position in Americana music.

In 2018, she, along with fellow roots musicians Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan, released the album See You Around as the supergroup I’m With Her.

Like most artists, Rosanne Cash has been stuck in her home for the bulk of the past year. But unlike some singer-songwriters who feel creatively paralyzed by the moment, Cash has been able to process what’s happened throughout 2020 — a deadly pandemic, an uprising for black lives, a looming election — into art. “My tour was cancelled, and I was off the road, sequestered in my own home, with time, a stack of writing journals, and a recording studio in the basement,” Cash says. “The only thing to do was write songs.” I’ve been a bit quiet lately, as I’ve been working on something really important to me. The vortex we find ourselves in at this moment of suffering, fear, outrage, but also a faith in our better angels, led me to write the lyrics to a new song called “Crawl Into The Promised Land”. John Leventhal wrote the music.

The first of those songs, “Crawl Into the Promised Land,” which she recorded in her home studio with John Leventhal, is a cautiously hopeful anthem that preaches the hard work of dissent and patriotism. “50 years away from here/60, if I run,” she sings. “Deliver me from tweets and lies/and purify me in the sun.” Sarah Jarosz and Jakob Leventhal provide backing vocals. “We can get back to our dream of America, where the ‘enemy’ is an individual burden, inside each of us, aching for a truce,” Cash says in an essay accompanying “Crawl Into the Promised Land.” “Were exhausted. We’re disoriented. But I know we have the strength and will to deliver ourselves.”

The sublime Sarah Jarosz was kind enough to sing background harmonies and was joined by moody indie icon Jakob Leventhal.  Lift your head and raise your hand, my friends.

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Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins are bound by a love for bluegrass, chamber music, jazz, storytelling and singing. Each of these three musicians, now united under the I’m With Her name, have performed at the Tiny Desk before. Sara Watkins was here with Nickel Creek (2014), Watkins Family Hour (2015) and The Decemberists (2011). Sarah Jarosz was here in 2013 and Aoife O’Donovan came along with Yo Yo Ma and Chris Thile as part of the Goat Rodeo project back in 2011. All three are brilliant players with an ever-shifting array of stringed instruments, guitars, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. As I’m With Her, they know how to gather round a microphone and sing directly from their heart to yours. Purity is the brilliance behind I’m With Her.

The three singers who perform together as I’m With Her sound like sisters. It’s as if they’ve known each other all their lives and share common roots and musical memories.

The three songs they perform here come from the trio’s debut album, See You Around. It’s a sound made for the intimacy of the Tiny Desk and they all feel right at home.

Set List “See You Around” “Game to Lose” “Overland”

Musicians Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan

I'm with her

The album was written in Los Angeles and Vermont and recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in a tiny English village near Bath, England. Co-produced by Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Laura Marling, Paul McCartney) and the band, “See You Around” delivers a warmly textured sound that proves both fresh and timeless. Beginning with a jaunty fiddle vamp that leads into an eerie, three-part harmony verse, “Game to Lose” combines the members’ respective musical talents for a performance that’s both delicate and gutsy, seamlessly transitioning between sections. The chorus scales back to one voice, but the weighty lyrics explore the risk of a passionate pursuit under potentially dire circumstances.

This all-star Americana trio I’m With Her has been touring mid-sized theaters with impressive regularity for a group without a proper album on the market. On February 16th, the group – Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins known as I’m With Her will release their debut album “Game To Lose” is from I’m With Her’s full-length debut album, See You Around.

Im with her

“See You Around” is the title track and first song from the debut album full-length from I’m With Her. For those unfamiliar with name, they are the ‘supremely gifted’ Sarah Jarosz whose last album Undercurrent has set the bar still higher, Nickel Creek stalwart and solo artist Sara Watkins who released Young In All The Wrong Ways on New West last year, and ex-Crooked Still now solo artist (the Tucker Martine produced debut Fossils) Aoife O’Donovan.

The album will be released February 16th, 2018. The album was written in Los Angeles and Vermont and recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in a tiny English village near Bath, England. Co-produced by Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Laura Marling, Paul McCartney) and the band, “See You Around” delivers a warmly textured sound that proves both fresh and timeless.

Very excited there’s a full-length album from I’m With Her coming in February. So lovely, their songs.

See You Around presents a warmly textured, yet stripped-down sound layered with lush guitar tones and crystalline harmonies. The album is comprised of 11 originals, penned by the band in Los Angeles and Vermont, plus the never before released Gillian Welch-penned “Hundred Miles.” With each member playing guitar and handling various aspects of the instrumentation— including fiddle and ukulele for Watkins, mandolin and banjo for Jarosz, piano and synth for O’Donovan—the band cut most of the album live, performing just a few feet away from each other in the tracking room. All through See You Around, I’m With Her exhibits a refined musicality that reflects their deep musical roots.

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I’m With Her the trio project from American folk favourites Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan have just released their new video “Little Lies”.

We wrote Little Lies in the hills of Echo Park, CA, on May 5th, 2017. Three days later, we recorded the song at a historic studio on Sunset Blvd. This is the first original song we are releasing as a band.

Despite the trio being around for the last couple of years “Little Lies” is their first original release and was written and recorded over three days back in May.