Creating a truly unique, original sound and a new musical vocabulary is a lofty goal for most bands. \With their second album, The Sondheim Project, Sara Shiloh Rae & Bluebird Junction have done just that and more.

This is Stephen Sondheim as he has never been heard before. With five truly original arrangements of classics like “Send in the Clowns” and “Ladies who Lunch” the pandemic-formed band has roared its way into the classical, jazz, americana and world music scene with a sound that is fresh, sophisticated and entirely their own.

The idea of arranging the music of Sondheim for an americana-bluegrass-informed stringband is the brainchild of Ms. Rae and her partner, banjo player Max Hoetzel.

“Our idea was to take the quintessential american quality that is Sondheim—the wit, the neurosis,the warmth, and sophistication— and marry it to the other quintessential american art forms, which are bluegrass and americana.” said Hoetzel, who also produced the album.

A fearless interpreter in the contemporary classical music world, Sara Shiloh Rae (Sara Hershkowitz) has been celebrated for her interpretations of Ligeti, Luigi Nono, and John Cage with orchestras such as the BBC Scottish Symphony, the L.A. Philharmonic, and the Bergen Symphony.

It is a rare feat for a singer hailing from the classical world to have the color paletteMs. Rae has at her disposal. In these five Sondheim arrangements, she infuses aching vulnerability into a considerable vocal prowess, tinged with melancholy, joy, and dry wit. There is a beauty and warmth to her voice that is singular.

The arrangements by Myles Sloniker are transparent and sophisticated; the colors of the string band in fascinating juxtaposition to the songs musical origins on Broadway. The EP features some of the hottest musical stars of the contemporary bluegrass scene: Alex Hargreaves on fiddle (currently on tour with Billy Strings)Mike Robinson on guitar (Sarah Jarosz) Jacob Jolliff on mandolin (Jacob Joli? Band), Molly Aronson on cello, Myles Sloniker on bass and Max Hoetzel on banjo.

This five-track EP breathes new life into these beloved classics and gives a whole new perspective on some of Sondheim’s most brilliant songs.


“Ladies who Lunch” is Stephen Sondheim’s epic anthem of angry, drunken snark. Sara Shiloh Rae and her outstanding band, the bluegrass-inspired Bluebird Junction, give this Broadway classic a gorgeous banjo-and-fiddle laced treatment that is fresh, surprising and full of wit.

“Send in the Clowns”is Stephen Sondheim’s most well known song. Sara Shiloh Rae & Bluebird Junction’s interpretation is a heartbreakingly fragile read on the Sondheim classic, weaving threads of chamber music, folk, and bluegrass into a whole tapestry of sound.

With “The Miller’s Son” from Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” Sara Shiloh Rae &Bluebird Junction are pushing far into the bluegrass vernacular with a hoedown fiddle and banjo section that dares push the boundaries. Sara’s powerful vocals touch on a wide palette of colors and give a whole new perspective on this song.

“Sooner or Later” written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1990 film “Dick Tracey’s” character Breathless Mahoney was originally sung by Madonna.With a brilliant, fresh arrangement by Myles Sloniker, Bluebird Junction has taken a musical approach far from the big-band sound of the film, focusing instead on a sultry, intimate and sophisticated sound.

“Broadway Baby” is what happens when broadway meets country. With a swinging, old-time country feel, Sara Shiloh Rae & Bluebird Junction bring easy charm and sweetness to the Sondheim classic.

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