Peppered with dark and cutting lyrics directed at an unwelcome visitor, Sarah Jarosz’s song “House of Mercy” might suggest otherwise, but the tune she co-wrote with friend Jedd Hughes for her new LP Undercurrent actually has its origins in a place of worship.
“I sat down to write with Jedd one day,” Jarosz tells Rolling Stone Country. “He had a little voice memo saved on his phone that said ‘Jarosz idea,’ which was the initial melody of the chorus. He also mentioned passing by a funky little church called the House of Mercy in East L.A., and thought that would be a good idea for a song title. The rest of the tune flowed easily from there.”
“Underneath that shirt you’re wearin’, strained muscles and a heart of stone,” Jarosz sings full-throated and resolutely, adding insult to injury with the next line: “Double-crossin’ like a wild chameleon, you make me want to be alone.”
Undercurrent is the multi-instrumentalist’s fourth LP and first of all-original material. It’s also her first to be released since graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music. Her previous collection, 2013’s Build Me Up From Bones, was nominated for a Grammy.
The above video was recorded in New York City with Jarosz joined by Hughes on guitar and Jeff Picker on bass. The stark, affecting performance was captured at the start of the acclaimed musician’s Undercurrent Tour, which has been underway since April and will include a series of U.K. dates in November.