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CD Review: Sarah Jarosz

Song Up in Her Head (Sugar Hill)

This 17-year-old bluegrass prodigy strums and picks all the right instruments: guitar, banjo, mandolin. She also possesses a deep-in-the-hollows croon that's part native Texas, part ages-old Americana. And on her debut album, she writes and sings about laying her soul on the line and leaving home. Song Up in Her Head is an authentic-sounding record that's wise beyond Jarosz's young age — "Edge of a Dream" is written, played and sung with more maturity than what's typically found in a recent high-school graduate. But she occasionally gets in over her head. Vocally, she strains aiming for adulthood on some songs, and a cover of the Decemberists' "Shankill Butchers" is even more plodding than the original version. (She fares better on her other cover, Tom Waits' "Come on Up to the House.") But when everything comes together — like on the ballads "I Can't Love You Now" and "Can't Hide" — the songs up in Jarosz's head are gorgeous ones indeed. — Gallucci

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