The last couple of times Sarah Jarosz has played in Oxford it was at SJE, most recently on the I’m With Her trio tour with Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan. This time she’s branched out in terms of Oxford churches to the “elaborate living room” which is St Barnabas in Jericho. The venue isn’t the only change – she’s no longer touring with Alex Hargreaves (violin) and Nate Smith (cello), as she did in the early days. Instead she’s accompanied by songwriter and guitarist Anthony da Costa and double bassist Jeff Picker.
It might have been easier for her to stay with the familiar, but it’s not her style. She chose to study music rather than going straight out into the world as a performer, and she’s pushed herself on each of the four albums she’s released in just six years. It shows. Listening again to the likes of Annabelle Lee, from her second album Follow Me Down, there’s something new to be found each and every time; a slight variation on the arrangement, new feeling in the lyric. She brings the same attention to detail in her covers, whether it’s the well-worn Ring Them Bells, Linda Ronstadt’s High Sierra or the Tim O’Brien medley she weaves into the set.
Sarah Jarosz doesn’t rest on her laurels, and who wouldn’t admire that? The answer is nobody, from tonight’s attentive audience to the Grammy board which just awarded her Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Performance, her acclaim is widespread. Empty Room Promotions have a knack for bringing some of the best quality country and bluegrass acts to Oxford, and they don’t come much better than this at the moment.