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Sarah White

Sarah White joins a growing number of fiercely independent, idiosyncratic female performers -- such as Cat Power, Julie Doiron, and Tara Jane O'Neil -- who make remarkably eclectic music with voice, guitar, and little else. A Virginia native who has traveled the world only to return again and again to the Blue Ridge Mountains, White's music derives its character from the incredible wealth of experience that goes into it, not from weird instruments or studio trickery. Her voice is classic, raggedly beautiful, made lovely by its flaws; it's a voice that sounds like it was made to tell stories, and it's the most important instrument in every song she does.

White's first album, All My Skies Are Blue, is a raw, incredibly lo-fi effort which ranges from stark startlingly simple pieces to a hyperactive punk-folk rants. The 1997 record, featuring "Acres for Us," which sounds almost like a lost Smithsonian Folkways recording, and the weird and weary "I'm Down," consists of three years' worth of home four-track recordings, which accounts for its naked unvarnished quality.

Her sophomore effort, 2000's Bluebird, is a considerably more polished effort and also a somewhat more mature one. Gone is the abrasive streak that marked the less restrained songs on her first record. In its stead are consistently high-quality arrangements featuring cello, dulcimer, viola, and accordion to complement White's voice and guitar. The album's opener, the delicately minimal "You're Not Easy, You're Hard," is a masterpiece of lyrical ambiguity, while "Ribbon Bow," featuring the majestic cello of Telegraph Melts' Amy Domingues, is a wistful, yearning beauty.

White's synthesis of acoustic pop, backwoods folk, and country combined with her talent for emotional immediacy can result in some real gems. Keep an eye on her as she continues to develop as a songwriter.