For Wimberley's Sarah Jarosz, Song Up in Her Head is the calling card of triple-threat stardom: a voice of maturity at 17, instrumentalist of precision, and a songwriter of uncommon wisdom in the mold of Dolly Parton by way of Lucinda Williams. Because she's dazzled audiences on the bluegrass and folk circuit since she was 12, Jarosz's brilliant debut is neither fluke nor surprise. Like Austinite Ariel Abshire's Exclamation Love last year, much of Jarosz's appeal is youth, but that's grounded so deeply in talent that listening to her is a sweet promise for the future. Jarosz is at the bruise-tender age of innocence, illustrated by the plaintive query of a lover in "Tell Me True." "Do you think of me the way I think of you?" she pleads with caution in her beautifully sculpted voice and knowledge beyond her years in the dark lament. She draws exquisite emotion from "Broussard's Lament" and weaves alluring tales in "Can't Hide," "Long Journey," "Little Song," and, without words, "Mansinneedof." Jarosz also exercises impeccable taste in covers, tackling the Decemberists' "Shankill Butchers" and turning Tom Waits' "Come On Up to the House" into country gospel. Under Jarosz's and Gary Paczosa's production, and with help from fellow teens Samson Grisman and Alex Hargreaves, this 13-song oeuvre shouts from the mountaintops that Sarah Jarosz has arrived.
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