The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Sarah Jarosz and the Milk Carton Kids. Courtesy photo.

In Collaboration: Milk Carton Kids and Sarah Jarosz

When: Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m.
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 South Main St., Concord. 
Tickets: $30-$35 at

Wonder kids
In Collaboration brings together young Americana talents

By Michael Witthaus

Pure alchemy is rare in music — Crosby, Stills and Nash finding harmony in a Laurel Canyon living room, or Al Kooper’s accidental organ twisting through “Like a Rolling Stone.” Such a moment happened last winter in the dressing room of Dallas’s Kessler Theatre, when Sarah Jarosz and the Milk Carton Kids — Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan — sang together for the first time.

They had met and bonded the previous summer during festivals at Telluride and Newport but hadn’t played together until that night. In a recent phone interview, Jarosz shared memories of their happenstance brilliance.  
“We got about two lines into the song and Joey was like, ‘We have to stop — this is amazing.’ It felt really magical.”
Plans to perform Milk Carton Kids’ “Years Gone By” grew to multiple songs from both artists’ catalogs. Joined by Jarosz’s stage mates Samson Grisman, Alex Hargreaves and Nathaniel Smith, they played an acclaimed set on PBS’s Austin City Limits and another at New York City’s Lincoln Center.
The music and camaraderie were equally infectious, Jarosz said. 
“We said, we have to do a tour so we can have an excuse to do this more, because it is really satisfying.” 
New Hampshire fans will be the first to witness In Collaboration: The Milk Carton Kids & Sarah Jarosz when the tour opens in Concord on Friday. Oct. 17.
The 23-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist’s affinity for the project speaks volumes, given the musicians she’s already worked with. Players like Chris Thile, Aoife O’Donovan, Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck and Dan Tyminski have contributed to her records. She made her first at age 16, the Grammy-nominated Song Up In Her Head, while studying at New England Conservatory of Music. 
Considering this early success, it’s easy to wonder why Jarosz even wanted to go to college, let alone music school. Her parents, both teachers, were the main driving force, she explained. 
“But it was also a goal of mine … it was important to me early on not to rush … [or] be a road dog right out of high school.”
She was accepted into the Conservatory’s elite Contemporary Improvisation program. Her studies expanded a prodigious musical knowledge that began while barely a toddler, watching Bill Staines, Guy Clark, Shawn Colvin and others at Austin music clubs with her mom and dad. (“They ditched the babysitter,” Jarosz said.) 
Later, she attended summer string camps led by legends like David Grisman and Mike Marshall.
“The CI program offered a lot that I hadn’t been exposed to,” Jarosz said. “Jazz, free improv and a chance to workshop my own material with some incredible teachers.” 
She graduated in 2013 and a few months later released her third album, Build Me Up From Bones. From the spare, elegant title track to the slyly erotic “Gone Too Soon,” the disc is Jarosz’s most nuanced and mature yet. 
Included on the record, also nominated for a Grammy, are some interesting covers.  Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” is more stripped down than anything Jarosz has done, while Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right-On” is a very different song for her. 
“I haven’t even thought about writing a line like, ‘I just killed my dinner with karate,’” she said with a laugh. “It’s important to me when creating a record that it’s not horizontal the whole way through.”  
Jarosz, Ryan, Pattengale and the gang will spend a week in New York rehearsing prior to their full-length debut. 
“I think there are definitely some nerves … but in a good way. I’m constantly looking for those situations that make you nervous but ultimately push you to grow,” said Jarosz. “It will definitely be interesting trying all this stuff out for the first time. Sometimes those are the most fun shows, when you have no idea what is going to happen.”  
As seen in the October 16, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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