Classic Clips: Sarah Jarosz plays James McMurtry’s ‘Childish Things’, April 2021

Photo: Nick Barber

The most abbreviated form of this accompanying text for Sarah Jarosz’  take on James McMurtry’s ‘Childish Things’ would be “this is an outstanding version of an outstanding song, so stop reading and start listening now”. But for more details, the clip is part of an On The Screen livestream performance from a couple of years back, where Jarosz played her second most recent album ‘World on the Ground’ (2020) in full, then followed it up with a series of cover versions and other songs, including this one.

The livestream was apparently Jarosz’  first full-band performance in a fair while given the pandemic and for once all those clichés about pent-up energy being let loose at last really rang true for herself and the four backing musicians. With American powerhouse writer/producer/musician John Leventhal making an enormous contribution to affairs on lead guitar, Jarosz’ take on one of McMurtry’s best-loved songs is a lot rockier than much of her own, gentler-sounding folk-based work. But there’s no sense that she’s on unfamiliar ground, either, in what is a confident, fiery reworking of one of McMurtry’s most thought-provoking and evocative songs (and he’s got a hefty number of those)..

A few words about ‘Childish Things’ itself, which was taken from the 2005 album of the same name. It’s essentially about time changing perspectives on life, and starts with the narrator as a child remembering his Aunt Clara always keeping her Bible by her ‘phone [this is back when folks had land-lines] “in case she needed a quote when she talked to someone” and works through to the present day, when the world-weary narrator’s main goal in life as a forty-something-year-old is “a comfortable chair”, selling up his business and going to live on the coast on the profits.  But whether it’s McMurtry’s perspective on his own song, or Jarosz’ take, there’s a strong case for saying the power of the raw material shines through with equal brilliance and force.

About Alasdair Fotheringham 63 Articles
Alasdair Fotheringham is a freelance journalist based in Spain, where he has lived since 1992, writing mainly on current affairs and sport.
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David Steiner

The rhythms and her phraseology remind of Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” album.