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Sarah Jarosz brings her startlingly mature music back home to Texas

Sarah Jarosz

8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6

Kessler Theater, Dallas

214-272-8346; thekessler.org

$20-$30


Posted 12:00am on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013

At the age of 10, Sarah Jarosz picked up a mandolin, and began playing.

It was the first of four stringed instruments she would eventually master.

By 2009, her senior year in high school, the Austin-born Jarosz was signed to Sugar Hill Records.

In June of that year, three months before beginning studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, she released her debut album, Song Up in Her Head.

In May of this year, Jarosz graduated from the conservatory, and in September, the 22-year-old released her third record, Build Me Up From Bones.

For a singer-songwriter long considered a progressive bluegrass prodigy, it’s not too much of a stretch to consider Bones something of a master class in folk music.

It’s a confident, bracingly mature work, full of moody textures and razor-sharp musicianship, courtesy of Nathaniel Smith and Alex Hargreaves, who round out her touring trio.

Highlights abound: Jarosz covers Bob Dylan’s Simple Twist of Fate, making the classic sound bitterly forlorn and exhausted beyond her years.

“It’s sort of a real transition now in my life, since I’m not also in school and doing all of this,” Jarosz says from a Maine tour stop. “That was always the most challenging part of it — balancing doing it all while being in school, which has been for as long as I’ve been doing this.”

Coming from Jarosz, the phrase “for as long as I’ve been doing this” can stop a person in their tracks, when considering her career’s trajectory.

Rolling Stone, The New York Times and National Public Radio have all swooned over her work, which isn’t afraid to incorporate very un-bluegrassy covers from the likes of Radiohead.

For her sophomore LP, 2010’s Follow Me Down, she and producer Gary Paczosa recruited heavyweights like Jerry Douglas, Viktor Krauss and Dan Tyminski.

Through all of the positive press and glittering guest stars in the recording studio, Jarosz has remained intensely focused on her goals.

Instead of putting her education on hold — an idea, she says, which would have not gone over especially well with her schoolteacher parents — Jarosz elected to relocate to Boston and the NEC, in order to not only strengthen her musical skills, but also, to have a chance to be an ordinary teenager.

“That was a big part of my decision to go to college in the first place ... not wanting to skip over that time in my life, [and] to have those four years to just be in college,” Jarosz says. “A big part of my choice to go to NEC, specifically, [was that] I could see that they were going to push me outside of my comfort zone, applying styles that maybe it would’ve taken me a lot longer to discover if I hadn’t gone that route.”

Her horizons weren’t exactly narrow before she moved to Boston, however.

Jarosz, who grew up outside of Austin in Wimberley, consumed an eclectic array of music in her formative years, and drew inspiration from iconoclasts like Gillian Welch, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell.

“I’m drawn to people that are not only great singers, but great musicians, great songwriters, people who did the whole thing,” she says. “Early on, I saw that [and thought] ‘This is what I want to do. Other people aren’t feeling tied down, so why should I?’”

Now living in New York City, Jarosz considers Bones a springboard for whatever comes next.

“That was certainly a big goal going in … to open myself up and allow more possibilities in the future,” Jarosz says. “I certainly want to keep doing this as long as I can.”

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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