29/04/2015 | I’m With Her Tour – St John the Evangelist, Oxford

Lisa Ward

Normally the phrase ‘I’m with her’ conjures up a degree of picking sides but tonight’s I’m With Her tour featuring Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, and Aoife O’Donovan makes it impossible to pick a winner. With solo numbers and group ensembles in equal measures they still manage to fuse as one, leaving the inattentive ear unable to decipher where one artist ends and another begins.

Tonight though it’s not just about showcasing their own songs, with a cover of John Hiatt’s Crossing The Muddy Waters, John Croce’s Walking Back to Georgia, and Andrew Stroud’s Be My Husband all thrown into the mix. When their own songs do hit the spotlight it’s hard to pick between Jarosz’ Build Me Up From Bones, Watkins’ Be There, and O’Donvonan’s Red and White and Blue and Gold. Each song highlights the incredible power of the individual artist, and serves to confirm then as artists at the top of their game.

The instrument swapping which sees a feast of guitars, ukuleles, banjos, and fiddles hit the stage also goes a long way to highlight the dexterity of the trio, and proves their ability to both compose and deliver intricate numbers filled with passion. Meanwhile the finale of Emmylou Harris’ The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn from the balcony showcases how St John the Evangelist lends itself to the genre, the amplification of their harmonies bringing a beautiful ring to the end of the night. For me however it’s their cover of Gillian Welch’s A Hundred Miles which is the pinnacle of the night, filed with both emotion and heartache.

Fusing bluesgrass, Americana, folk, and at times a more traditional country sound, the trio span the genres in an effortless way that leaves each song bleeding into the next. With Watkins and O’Donovan finding previous fame in Nickel Creek and Crooked Still respectively, and Jarosz rarely found without her wingmen Nathaniel Smith and Alex Hargreaves, tonight stands to testify that all three are more than capable of commanding the crowd without extensive backing. Suffice to say, if I hadn’t been convinced before, by the end of the show I am indeed with her (and her, and her).