Sarah Jarosz

The New England Conservatory of Music automatically makes you credible: Sarah Jarosz graduated with honors. She's only 24, but has made a significant name for herself as a vocalist, and on the mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, and banjo. She grew up near Austin, Texas, but lives in NYC when she's not on tour; she's already racked up top awards and nominations, and has worked with everyone from Andrew Bird to Ben Folds. In this collaboration with Sara Watkins and Aoife O'Donovan, covering John Hiatt's "Crossing Muddy Waters," it seems like harmony and fretwork make Jarosz feel at home. The title song from Hiatt's 15th album is a not-so-subtle nod to the blues legend, but crossing Muddy Waters seems to be exactly what's going on with this trio: an unexpected take on this blues almost makes more sense coming from women. It's rare to find an artist who has studied with some of the best and is able to translate that education into something so raw and creative. One doesn't think of folk and bluegrass as refined in an academic setting, but Jarosz has clearly taken the thing apart so that she can put it back together even better. The music and the instruments that she plays have so much history: so much evolution. Her fingerpicking is precise, and her voice sounds beyond her age. She's quickly becoming a staple: one who everyone wants to work with.