Thursday, May 26, 2011

Old soul

When I first saw this video, I thought she was covering some old-time banjo tune. But no, Sarah Jarosz wrote this one.

The song is "Anabelle Lee", off her new album Follow Me Down, which was released last week. You take a precocious young lady with a talent for channeling old-time bluegrass, expose her to classic literature, and this is what results...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin


  1. Old time -- it sounds ancient! Seriously - pre-1600. My ear isn't good enough to tell if that is just natural minor, or if it's in one of the old modes.

    Reminds me a bit of The Edmond Fitzgerald, or the Gallows Pole.

    Interesting and very good, indeed.


  2. Banjo tunings are an interesting subject, banjos are even-tempered instruments (at least fretted ones are) but many banjo players play in keys that are... well... odd. Sarah could undoubtedly tell you what exact key it's in, now having successfully completed two years at the New England Conservatory of Music with a straight-A average. But I certainly can't.

    My guess is a) the influence of The Greencards, a "Newgrass" band that loves to also do some real olde tyme English folk music (as in, pre-1600) with whom she gigged from the age of 12 to the age of 18, b) the fact that "her" instrument is the mandolin, which is one of those old-school instruments that tends to make you think in an old-school way (she's playing banjo here because this song wants a banjo, but most of the songs on the album, she's playing either normal mandolin or octave mandolin), c) the influence of a lot of the old bluegrass types she's studied under since she was 12 years old when she first started gigging and pumping the grownups for all the knowledge she could get, d) the influence of studying Baroque music at the conservatory.

    What strikes me about this entire album is the sheer joy it embodies. Sarah Jarosz is having the time of her life, and it shows. Sometimes nice people *do* come out on top. Sarah is a genuinely nice person whose enthusiasm and willingness to learn and whose sheer joy in playing the music has led to a lot of people in the music world being in her corner. The album has guest appearances by a number of folks who are big names in the bluegrass / newgrass / Americana world, folks like Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen, Viktor Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Mark Schatz, Darrell Scott, Shawn Colvin, Dan Tyminski, Sarah Siskind and Vince Gill. These are folks that she's met out on the summer festival circuit, and because she's a nice person and because her enthusiasm is infectious, when she called and asked if they'd play on her new album, well. Turning her down would have been like kicking a puppy. She just has that effect on people :).

    - Badtux the Music Penguin

  3. I was able to pick enough of it out on the piano to determine it's G minor.

    The treatment sounds really modal to me though. Aeolian mode uses the same scale as natural minor.

    I'd love to see the chord structure.



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