In the long shadows of an early autumn evening in her hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, Sarah White strums hard on her beat up vintage sunburst Gibson, sending up sparks of lonesome Americana that draw a crowd toward the stage. It’s hard to make an association, to say what this music “sounds like,” but it’s immediately clear that White is the real deal, erasing the boundaries between indie rock, post-punk, country, and folk influences with her distinctive and wonderfully sad voice. Even those in the audience who have never heard her songs find themselves pulled in by the magnetic sincerity and strong melodies of White’s unique underground American roots rock, steeped in good time 70’s country music and guided by pop instincts and punk rock attitude.
White started her career in the late 90’s with two albums of mysterious, lo-fi, experimental folk-rock on the popular Jagjaguwar label. Her 1997 debut All My Skies Are Blue, was a collection of 4-track recordings pressed straight to CD. In 2000 she released her first studio album, the stunningly original Bluebird which The San Francisco Bay Guardian described as “a delicately bare and pretty album that ensures the singer-songwriter a place in the company of Cat Power’s Chan Marshall and Edith Frost.” In the intervening years, White has produced two EP’s, two singles, and another full length. Her 2006 album White Light has became a cult favorite for its eclectic and unique blend of driving folk-rock, sorrowful country ballads, and experimental, personal narrative songs. In 2007, White won “Best Song” in the Mountain Stage New Song Contest for the delicately austere “Sweetheart.” The song is the title track of an which White plans to release in 2013.
These days Sarah fronts the rock band, “Josephine,” a dynamic hybrid of pop music, honky tonk and post-punk that owes as much to Gunclub and X as Wilco and Lucinda Williams. The group's debut single “Beeline” features three original tracks.
Sarah White's Country Christmas Show, now in it's TENTH year, is a downtown family tradition. Hosted by the (All New) Acorn Sisters (White and Sian Richards) who channel the Carter Family in glittery angel wings and anchored by the honest country sound of Jim Waive & the Young Divorcees, the show promises more down home country music than you can shake a stick at, plus more twinkly lights than this side of Belmont on a cold winter's night. As always, a portion of the proceeds benefit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and canned food donations are accepted at the door.
C-Ville Best Of 2013: Singer-Songwriter
A Charlottesville native, Sarah White’s got staying power. She started her career in the late ’90s, released her first studio album in 2000, another in 2006, won “Best Song” in a 2007 contest for “Sweetheart,” which is the title track for an EP she plans to release this year before becoming the front woman for local rock-pop-honky-tonk band, Josephine. If all that doesn’t earn her the No. 1 spot again this year, we don’t know what does.
Name game: Josephine Foster and Sarah White’s Josephine defy the Americana genre
Sarah White’s music has worn many names over the years, from her early days as the frontwoman for rock band Miracle Penny to her solo albums on Jagjaguwar, her many appearances backed by the rotating cast of Sarah White and the Pearls, and her gospel duets with Sian Richards as The (All New) Acorn Sisters. Each of these acts made a fitting showcase for White’s impeccable songwriting and performing chops, erasing the boundaries between rock, country, and folk, united by her distinctive and wonderfully sad voice. Whatever form it takes, her music is always some of the best material coming out of Charlottesville, and has long been deserving of wider recognition.
Her latest group was formed from the last incarnation of the Pearls, and includes former GWAR bassist/current UVA professor Michael Bishop, and virtuoso guitarist/Jim Waive sideman Charlie Bell. Though their sound is only slightly different from the Pearls’ more rock-oriented material, White felt the need for a new band name to signify a fresh start. She’s given the new act the name Josephine (no relation to Josephine Foster) and their new single is called “The Last Day of May,” though the similarity to Charlottesville’s late-’90s noise-rock band Last Days of May is just a coincidence.
The record’s debut on Friday, May 31 is no coincidence, however. Sarah White and Josephine will perform at The Garage, celebrating the release of the song through County Wide Records, on a 3-track, 7″ EP entitled Beeline. The event will also include a screening of the “Last Day of May” music video, created by students in the Light House Studios film program.
The video, like the song, is utterly straightforward—a bittersweet portrait of the end of a relationship, as White sings “On the last day of May,/I made up my mind to leave you.” The video mimics the song’s lyrics directly: a couple argues, intercut with the young woman wistfully carrying her suitcase to the bus stop through the lovely spring weather. There are no surprises here, but the execution is effortlessly professional, and the video has made the rounds at several youth festivals, winning awards at the Virginia Student Film Festival and the Pendragwn Youth Film Festival, and placing as a finalist in the Los Angeles Film Festival’s Future Filmmakers Showcase and at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. For local viewers, much of the appeal may be in spotting local landmarks, including the Downtown Mall, the nearby railroad tracks, and an apartment in the Pink Warehouse. White herself cameos as a street musician busking on the mall near Central Place.
The release party begins at 8pm. The event is free, though The Garage does pass a hat for donations, and the band will have the 7″ single for sale.
Hackensaw Boys with Josephine, Jefferson Theater, Nov
Josephine debuts at the Jefferson with the Hackensaw Boys. Josephine is Ed Trask, drums; Michael Bishop, bass; former Hackensaw Charlie Bell on electric guitar, and Sarah White on guitar and vocals.
Merle Haggard with Sarah White at the Ntelos Charlottesville Pavilion Thursday 8/4/11.
Sarah White opens the Merle Haggard Show at the Charlottesville Pavilion Thursday 8/4/11.
Sarah White and the Pearls open the DMB Caravan in Atlantic City, June 24
Virginian Sarah White and her three-piece band the Pearls opened the Dave Matthews Band Caravan with the words, “Welcome to Atlantic City” at 1:20 p.m. Friday to brilliant sunshine, temperatures in the 80s and a warm breeze.
White was the only live music for the first half hour of the festival, and she came on stage appropriately dressed in a silver, sleeveless dress and mirror sunglasses. The festival is leaning heavily on singer-songwriter types. White kicked off the day with a strong eight-song set of her original tunes that closed with one of her best songs, “Fightin’ Words,” a composition about relationship discord.
Sarah White and the Pearls are followed by Jeff Coffin on stage
Earl Scruggs with Sarah White & Ted Pitney Live at the Paramount Theater 3/11/11.
Live at the Paramount Theater 3/11/11 by Sarah White with Ted Pitney.
Recorded live at the Paramount Theater. Opening Set for Earl Scruggs Family Band. Recorded by Gary Green; mixed by Rob Evans. credits released 11 March 2011 Sarah White on guitar/vocals with Ted Pitney on lead guitar and vocals. All songs by Sarah White.