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August 12, 2016
Doors 7 p.m., Show 8 p.m. | $18 ADV / $20 DOS | Minors OK w/ Guardian
3017 SE Milwaukie Ave, Portland, OR 97202
“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”.
“When I visualize this record, I think of the Central Park reservoir, where I spent a lot of time getting inspiration and thinking about the album,” Jarosz notes, adding, “It was the most focused I had ever been, in terms of trying to write every day and having a grander idea of what I really wanted to write, so I was able to enjoy the process of writing more than ever.