In the intimate setting of Bush Hall, I’m With Her (Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan) gathered around a single microphone; the only amplification used during the show, and opened their show with Little Lies from the EP of the same name. The attentive audience were immediately captivated by the haunting fiddle opening played by Watkins, then the delicate vocal of O’Donovan and then the harmony of the band singing together. You could have heard a pin drop until the song finished and the room was then filled with applause.
Watkins then took lead vocal duties and we were treated to Ain’t That Fine from the new album, See You Around, which is released on February 16th. This was followed by Jim Croce’s Walkin’ Back To Georgia with Jarosz on lead vocals and then O’Donovan’s Hornets. The three of them are multi instrumentalists and vocalists in their own rights and constantly alternated a wide variety of instruments and swapped singing duties on various tracks throughout the evening. The only constants were the high class of musicianship on display along with the most stunning harmony work you are likely to hear live. Between songs, we were treated to amusing anecdotes and details of how the album came to be recorded and their time recording it at Peter Gabriel’s studios in Bath and all three of the band were very engaging with the audience.
Next up was a cover of Vasen’s Hasse A’s / Fire On The Mountain, a Celtic foot stomper which allowed the band to further show their musical skills. We then heard See You Around, the title track of the new album, which is a song of yearning after a break up that is both lyrical and musically assured. A beautiful cover of Tom Brosseau’s Today Is A Bright New Day followed before another new track, Game To Lose, was played. This song was at once hypnotic and mesmerising with intricate interplay of vocals and instrumentation and was greeted with huge applause when it was finished. A marvellous version of the traditional church / bluegrass number Lord Lead Me On made you feel like you were at a Deep South revival meeting before a stunning stripped back reworking of Adele’s Send My Love (To Your New Lover). More new songs followed, with Close It Down, Waitsfield (an up-tempo instrumental) and Ryland (Under The Apple Tree), (a dreamy, lush, harmony filled number), all being very well received and the latter two being particular highlights of the evening.
This was followed up by the band’s first releases and fan favourites, John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Waters and Nina Simone’s Be My Husband, the latter being performed a capella with just hand claps and foot stamps to accompany themselves and which was very impressive. They then finished the set with another new track, Overland, a very emotive song which sounds like it’s travelled through time from Laurel Canyon and could have been recorded by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young with its simple melody and harmonies. The band returned to the stage to thunderous applause and cheers to perform a final song from the new album, a cover of Gillian Welch’s 100 Miles.
The cheers and applause demonstrated how special this show had been and the sound these three had made, especially with just one microphone, had been transcendent. Nobody had wanted it to end but at least left with the consolation of knowing I’m With Her will be back in May for a full UK tour.