THE three members of I’m With Her, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins, an enviable clutch of Grammies and other awards between them from their individual track records in American bluegrass and old-time music, clustered around a single microphone on the Queen’s Hall stage, opened with a cover of John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Waters and never let up in a near seamless melding of plangent vocal harmonies and instrumental prowess.
I’m With Her, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh *****
Apart from the Hiatt song and Jim Croce’s Walkin’ Back to Georgia, they drew largely on their debut album, See You Around, including its bittersweet title track, in which Jarosz sang lead and Watkins’s fiddle provided a sinuous fourth voice, as it did throughout the show, against Jarosz’s nimbly ringing mandolin or taut banjo twang and O’Donovan’s guitar.
There were snaky vocal harmonies and eerie fiddle in the ominously-toned Pangaea. Similarly haunting was the stealthy, wordless oooh-ing that preceded Watkins’s imploring vocal in Wild One, while O’Donovan led the wry rebuke of 1-89 over terse banjo.
Spooky falsetto vocalising, too, introduced the intriguing Hannah Hunt, with its softly entwined vocal lines and impassioned fiddle. And thus they shifted easefully from the unabashed vintage schmaltz of the drowsy Under the Apple Tree, through the mercurial fiddle and mandolin fireworks of an instrumental, to the polished exuberance of a gospel song.
Rarely does a confluence of three voices, six hands and a battery of stringed instruments gel to such beguiling effect.