TAS Super LP List! Special Merit: Informal"I really like that word," Sarah Jarosz says of the title of Undercurrent, her fourth Sugar Hill album. "If you look up the definition, it's 'an underlying feeling or influence' or 'a flow of water moving below the surface.' To me, that really encompasses the feeling behind this record."
That evocative imagery is appropriate for Undercurrent, whose 11 original songs seem to reveal new lyrical depth and sonic nuance with every listen. A gifted multi-instrumentalist, a singularly expressive vocalist and a songwriter of rare insight, Sarah Jarosz has been described by The New York Times as "one of acoustic music's most promising young talents: a singer-songwriter and mandolin and banjo prodigy with the taste and poise to strike that rare balance of commercial and critical success."
Although it's her fourth album, Undercurrent is a milestone for Jarosz in more ways than one. It's her first release since graduating with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music, and her first since relocating to New York City.
"This is the first record I've made since being out on my own and experiencing a lot of changes, and I think that that's reflected in the songs," Jarosz explains. "It's also the first record I've ever made that feels to me like a complete thought, with a beginning, a middle and an ending. It's also the first time I've made an album that doesn't have any covers on it. I wanted it to feel like the rollercoaster ride that is life, so I put a lot of thought into sequencing the songs. It was important for me to start with light, and then go through darker times, and stubbornness and strength and weakness, and then end up on a hopeful note."
Undercurrent is a sublimely resonant song cycle anchored around a haunting quartet of songs written and performed solo by the artist: "Early Morning Light," "Everything To Hide," "Take Another Turn" and "Jacqueline." The album features several numbers co-written by Jarosz with a variety of collaborators who also contributed to the recordings, including Luke Reynolds ("Green Lights"), Jedd Hughes ("House Of Mercy"), Parker Millsap ("Comin' Undone") and Aoife O'Donovan ("Still Life"). The latter track features O'Donovan, of Crooked Still fame, as well as Nickel Creek co-founder Sara Watkins, Jarosz's bandmates in their extracurricular trio I'm with Her. Undercurrent also includes two songs co-written with the Milk Carton Kids Joey Ryan, including the nostalgic Back Of My Mind.
"I'm just trying to become more focused and more honest, and trying to be a better listener and observer of the world around me," she asserts. "That's what I tried to do on Undercurrent, and I'm really pleased with how true this record feels to me. In some ways, it feels like my first record, in the sense that it was the first time I could focus all of my energy on it. Everything felt like it was leading to this moment."
"Her lyrics have a mystical streak, projecting love and loneliness across the landscape and the sky."
- The New York Times
Limited Time Digital Download of Full Album
1. Early Morning Light
2. Green Lights
3. House of Mercy
4. Everything To Hide
5. Back of My Mind
1. Comin' Undone
2. Take Another Turn
3. Lost Dog
4. Take Me Back
5. Still Life