Build Me Up From Bones (Sugar Hill)
Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., Oct. 4, 2013
Plenty of musicians boast weighty degrees, but for 22-year-old Sarah Jarosz, the intent went deeper. Despite fears that academia might stomp out her fiery bluegrass style, the Austin-born/Wimberley-woodshedded mandolin prodigy enrolled in Boston's New England Conservatory of Music and never looked back. Build Me Up From Bones calls on the same whimsical picking that earned her an early Grammy nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance, while diversifying to great effect. She breaks from the cotton field nostalgia of 2011's Follow Me Down and 2009's Song Up in Her Head, on which she seemed to fancy herself a full-blown Southern belle, and in her third iteration melanges bluegrass with increasing mysticism ("1,000 Things"). Layers become more lush and complex with each LP (phosphorescent opener "Over the Edge"), but here she exercises restraint in the cobblestone canter and controlled burn of "Fuel the Fire," which then segues into the romantic decadence of both nightshade ballad "Mile on the Moon" and the tangy Appalachian ramble of the title track. Most notable, Jarosz's once whispering voice now has a weight that allows her to consider Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate" and jaunt up Joanna Newsom's "The Book of Right-On," ambitious covers that flower with her gifts as an interpreter. Post graduation, the picker's nestled in Brooklyn. While that might demonstrate Ivy-grade ambitions, Build Me Up From Bones beats primal Sarah Jarosz.