I’m With Her, made up of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, took the stage at Memorial Hall this Monday night. The band formed on a whim in 2014, recognizing their chemistry after playing an impromptu show. Their debut album, See You Around was released last month and is full of transcendent harmonies and unrivaled musicianship. To say that those things translated well live would be quite the understatement.
Nashville singer-songwriter Andrew Combs opened the show, stripping back his usual set to just himself and an acoustic guitar. He performed both new and old tunes, filling the room with hauntingly gorgeous vocals. His lighthearted banter between songs was charming, and his humble attitude shone through. He began with one of my favorites, “Rainy Day Song,” a poignant track written with fellow songwriter Brent Cobb. I was excited to hear Combs’ version, a jazzier rendition in comparison to Cobb’s. He continued with songs like “Strange Bird” and “Lauralee” from his earlier releases, but the pinnacle was so-called “creepy” tune, “Hazel.” The song tells the story of a man lusting after a lonely woman with “raven eyes.” His falsetto floated over the guitar and told the story in the most heartbreakingly eerie way. He left the audience wanting more but teased the release of a new EP in the near future.
I’m With Her gracefully took the stage shortly after, wasting no time getting into to the songs from their brand-new release. The band began with opening track of the album “See You Around” with vocals led by Sarah Jarosz. I was immediately taken aback by the chemistry they had, especially for being such a newly formed band. As I said before, the harmonies were other-worldly, and when they sang in unison, it sounded like a single voice. They traded instruments for each different song, sometimes playing a mandolin or ukulele, other times a banjo or guitar, and others completely going without, as was demonstrated in their “Be My Husband” cover by Nina Simone. The band played the entirety of their new album, with highlights including “I-89,” a song about being stuck in the snow on a backroad of Vermont, and “Hundred Miles,” a solemn tune that begins completely a cappella. They paid a few tributes, including “Walkin’ Back to Georgia” by Jim Croce, and “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele that exhibited just exactly what I’m With Her does best—harmony.
The band sounds as if they’ve been playing together forever, radiating both new wave folk sounds while sticking to classic bluegrass roots. Not only are the three women fantastic alone, they complement each other’s sound flawlessly. The warmth of their friendship was noticeable on stage and made for an intimate performance. They spoke highly of Cincinnati throughout the show, joking that while they were walking around before the show they asked each other “Should we just move here?” (My vote is yes, by the way). I left the show inspired and with high hopes that I’m With Her has only just begun taking the world by storm, and with a new-found love for our city and the musicians that play on our beautiful stages.