First Listen: Sarah Jarosz, 'Follow Me Down'

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Sarah Jarosz's follow-up to 2009's Song Up In Her Head will be released on May 17. i i

Sarah Jarosz's follow-up to 2009's Song Up In Her Head will be released on May 17. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Sarah Jarosz's follow-up to 2009's Song Up In Her Head will be released on May 17.

Sarah Jarosz's follow-up to 2009's Song Up In Her Head will be released on May 17.

Courtesy of the artist

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Music is just in her blood.

That's what Sarah Jarosz says when she explains why she became a musician. There wasn't necessarily a day where she said to herself: "Yes, this — making music — is what I want to do with my life." Instead, she says, it just always made sense that music was the most important thing in her life; the thing that would bring her the most joy.

Joy seems to be a key word for the follow-up to her much-admired 2009 debut recording, Song Up in Her Head. Jarosz almost gleefully changes directions on her new album, Follow Me Down. She chose a more traditional bluegrass sound for her debut, and even though she says making another bluegrass recording would have been true to herself, it was time to explore the other musical ideas she had running around in her head.

Those ideas include choosing two diverse covers to include on the recording: Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells" and Radiohead's "The Tourist." Her voice finds her changing from a sweet-sounding folksinger to a sultry and contemporary musician, and the fact that she's convincing at both is pretty remarkable.

Jarosz combines the covers with a slew of originals that range from dreamy pop ("My Muse") to bluegrass-inspired ballads ("Annabelle Lee"). Each piece showcases not just her effervescent vocals, but also her exceptional mandolin, clawhammer banjo and guitar skills.

A bluegrass prodigy, Jarosz invited all sorts of luminaries to join her on the new recording. Guest appearances by Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Shawn Colvin and others, along with performances featuring her regular trio-mates Alex Hargreaves and Nathaniel Smith, make Follow Me Down an ideal vehicle for Jarosz to continue experimenting with new sounds while still reviving musical traditions.

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