For the past 15 years, Sarah Jarosz has been one of the most talented songwriters in folk music. Whether the Texas native and current Nashville resident is playing guitar, banjo or mandolin, she has a distinctive way of crafting tunes that’s direct and profound. She’s also a very forward-thinking artist, which is evident in her latest album “Polaroid Lovers” that was released via Rounder Records on January 26. The full-length record incorporates elements of country, rock, Americana and modern pop while forging a cohesive array of tracks. Folks will get to experience a few songs off of the record in a live setting when Jarosz and her band perform at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, also known as The Kate, in Old Saybrook on February 9.
For the songwriting and recording process, Jarosz collaborated with the likes of Daniel Tashian, Ruston Kelly and Natalie Hemby with Tashian handling the production duties at the Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville. This inclusion of talents contributed to the sonic variety within Polaroid Lovers while making Jarosz think outside the box with her approach.
“What I love about a Polaroid is that it’s capturing something so fleeting, but at the same time it makes that moment last forever,” Jarosz says about the vision behind the new album via a press release. “It made sense as a title for a record where all the songs are snapshots of different love stories, and there’s a feeling of time being expansive despite that impermanence. Historically, I’ve been somewhat closed off to co-writing, but in the past couple of years I’ve felt curious to get out of my comfort zone. For a long time it was important to me to write for myself, so that I wouldn’t get lost in those rooms full of amazing writers. Now that I’m more confident in my musical identity, I know I can collaborate but still stay true to my own voice.”
Along with working with Tashian, Kelly and Hemby, Jarosz also included the likes of guitarist Rob McNelley, guitarist and organist Tom Bukovac, drummer Fred Eltringham and her husband Jeff Picker on bass during the recording sessions. With this range of stylings coming into play, one constant is Jarosz’ vibrant playing of the octave mandolin.
“Out of everything I play, the octave mandolin is definitely my soulmate,” she mentions about the instrument. “I started playing it when I was 16, and that’s when I started writing songs that truly felt like me. There’s something about the tonality that really lets my voice shine through.”
There are numerous highlights within Polaroid Lovers that cover a wide artistic scope. “Jealous Moon” starts the album off with electronic toned keys, rugged riffs and steady drums. An acoustic guitar has everything else bouncing off of it during “Runaway Train” as the chorus exhibits harmonious characteristics. Jarosz’s octave mandolin has a major presence during “Columbus & 89th” while exuding a feeling that’s a mix of reminiscence and despondency. Other songs I recommend checking out are “The Way It Is Now”, “Take The High Road” and “Mezcal and Lime”.
To give Jarosz’s new album a listen, you can give it a stream on either Spotify, Apple Music, ITunes, Amazon Music and Bandcamp. If you feel so inclined you can make a purchase for it as well to include in your music library. For all the information on the upcoming show at The Kate, log on to the venue’s website at thekate.org. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Jarosz perform live a few times and she always puts on a stellar show. Before you head to Old Saybrook to start your weekend off in entertaining fashion, dive right into “Polaroid Lovers” and enjoy.
Who: Sarah Jarosz
When: Feb. 9, 2024 at 8 p.m.
Where: The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of the Connecticut Examiner, he also writes for DigBoston, The Aquarian Weekly, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.