Polaroid Lovers (Sarah Jarosz) – music review

Sarah Jarosz’ seventh album is a real change of pace for the folk/Americana singer/songwriter who was viewed as a bluegrass prodigy on mandolin and banjo. Largely known as a folk artist, here Jarosz stretches out to work with a few other songwriters—Daniel Tashian, Natalie Hemby, Jon Randall, and Ruston Kelly—while embracing the poppier elements of the Nashville sound, her new hometown. The opening trio of “Jealous Moon,” “When the Lights Go Out,” and “Runaway Train” are up-tempo country rock proclamations of Jarosz new sense of outgoing direction. And the real bonus, is that her songs and voice, the bigger production, the whole thing works.

Six albums in, child prodigy Jarosz is best known for her acoustic folk music work, echoing her bluegrass roots. Polaroid Lovers is a big move to more of a Nashville sound, mixing the opening country rock anthem “Jealous Moon,” with the lofty pop of “Take the High Road,” and a variety of ballads.

Given the quieter, acoustic nature of much of Jarosz’ catalog, the bigger, band production Daniel Tashian brings to her songs is immediately noteworthy, especially the driving drum tracks. You can still hear Jarosz’ tasteful mandolin and acoustic playing in the mix, and it’s her lovely singing voice and the careful melodies of her songs that suggest the musical arrangements, always serving her storytelling perfectly.

Like looking through a box of old photographs, each of Jarosz’ songs looks back on some past event to reveal the meaning and impact. The most personal story describes her own move from NYC to her new hometown, “Columbus & 89th,” but as with most storytellers even the songs about other characters suggest the person and feelings of the teller. Jarosz’ poetic strengths align nicely with her voice and melodic approach.

Brian Q. Newcomb
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