REVIEW: I’m With Her @ City Recital Hall
I’m With Her LIVE @ City Recital Hall Tuesday 16 April 2019
Reviewed by Tony Roma
When asked to describe I’m With Her ahead of their debut Australian performance at the City Recital Hall last night I often lazily referred to them as a vocal group, due to one promotional marketing clip that covered an Adele song. It was such a powerful clip that it would not surprise me if half the audience there were due to having seen that clip on social media. What was really surprising last night was that this all girl trio was a fully-fledged band taking on board guitars, mandolin, violins, banjo, ukulele as well as the interwoven harmony of their captivating voices.
And what equal joy and treat it was to hear their songs first within the acoustic walls of the City Recital Hall ahead of their upcoming performances outside at Bluesfest in Byron Bay. The subtle changing dynamics, the heartfelt triads and accompanying solo acoustics felt as though they may be lost at an outdoor festival. There was however no love lost between these stylistically individual performers who played as if they had known each other for years (they have) and been writing together as I’m With Her for more than a decade (they haven’t).
All three however have played with a who’s who of folk, Americana and blues musicians over their careers. Fiddler Sara Watkins first band featured well known Chris Thile from the Punch Brothers and Vulfpeck and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz recordings have included guests such as Bela Fleck and Shawn Colvin. While Aoife O’Donovan was originally the lead singer of The Wayfaring Strangers and can call Garrison Keillor and Yo Yo Ma as her musical contemporaries.
Back at the City Recital Hall and I’m With Her need no comparison as they worked their way through a set list comprised of original recordings from their debut release See You Around as well as some carefully chosen and rearranged covers from much loved artists well known to the audience. Co-written songs such as Ain’t That Fine and instrumentals like Waitsfield move along at a brisk bluegrass pace as do covers of Joni Mitchell’s Carey and Bill Monroe’s Toy Heart.
The audience it feels is probably more at home with the more soulful sounds of songs like Dolly Parton’s He’s Gonna Marry Me and John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Waters as well as originals Overland and Game to Lose, plus their 3 solo recordings of Still Life (Jarosz), You & Me (Watkins) and Thursday’s Child (O’Donovan). Most impressive was when the group ventured into the spiritual realm when songs such as Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan and the encore performance of Nina Simone’s Be My Husband moved the audience to emotionally applaud and holler out for more.