I’m With Her—the folk super group featuring Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan—started by request. Back in 2014, members of string virtuosos the Punch Brothers needed an opening act for a high-profile late-night gig at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, so they asked O’Donovan to put something together. She enlisted Watkins and Jarosz, both already in Colorado to play the festival, and after just a few hours of rehearsal, the impromptu trio was born.
To steadfast fans of acoustic music, it wasn’t surprising that the musicians had immediate chemistry. All three have deep resumes and thriving individual careers: Watkins, a deft fiddle player, is likely the best known, as a longtime member of popular pop-grass group Nickel Creek; O’Donovan has recently been emerging as a solo artist after years fronting progressive string outfit Crooked Still; and Jarosz, once a teenage mandolin prodigy, picked up two Grammy Awards last year for work on her latest album. After their initial performance, though, it was clear to the three friends that they needed to make time to further explore I’m With Her.
That time has finally come. Following a big-venue stint last summer on the American Acoustic tour with the Punch Brothers, the group will release its debut full-length album on February 16. See You Around was co-produced by the trio and Ethan Johns, who’s helped craft studio works by Paul McCartney and Ryan Adams, and recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath, England. Besides one cover, a reading of Gillian Welch’s “A Hundred Miles,” the record features 11 original tunes that the band members have been gradually writing together since 2015.
The album is a potent acoustic statement that blends refined string arrangements with the forceful emotional impact of three angelic voices often singing in unison. The title track laments a breakup, but the lyrics are delivered through a sunny front-porch mountain song. “Game to Lose” showcases more of the group’s collective talents, starting with delicately chilling three-part harmonies that lead into a chamber-minded newgrass passage.
Already on the road supporting the album with an international tour that extends into the summer, the trio appears to be making this special collaboration more than just a side project.
I’m With Her will play a handful of dates in the Southeast this spring, starting with two nights at intimate Station Inn in Nashville, Tenn. (March 8-9). Additional stops include the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Ga. (March 10), the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn. (March 12), and the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., (March 13).
The Return Of Toubab Krewe
One of western North Carolina’s most popular bands from the past decade is resurfacing after a brief hiatus with new music and plans to hit the road. Toubab Krewe emerged from Asheville in 2005 and earned a fast following for a sound that fused edgy groove rock with music styles from the West African country of Mali. Propelled by heavily rhythmic drums and percussion, the band’s eclectic instrumentals were largely driven by the intertwining string work of Drew Heller on electric guitar and Justin Perkins on an array of traditional instruments, including the kora and kamelengoni. The band toured relentlessly from coast to coast and made appearances at major festivals, including Bonnaroo, but slowed down after some line-up changes and eventually took a break.
Now, after a two-year hiatus, the quintet is set to drop its first new album since 2010; Stylo (pronounced Stee-lo) will be released on March 2. The upcoming effort’s eight new tracks expand the band’s signature sound, adding elements of Afrobeat and New Orleans funk with electronic touches. Lead single “That Damn Squash” is a hazy, atmospheric dance tune that draws influence from Pakistani film scores. The album is now available for pre-order via PledgeMusic and a portion of proceeds from sales of the record and accompanying merchandise will benefit Seed Programs International, a nonprofit fighting hunger and malnutrition by sending vegetable seed packets to impoverished communities.
The band will support the new effort with a slate of tour dates that stretch into June. Regional stops include the Blind Tiger in Greensboro, N.C. (April 12), the Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh, N.C. (April 13), the Visulite Theatre in Charlotte, N.C. (April 14), Terminal West in Atlanta, Ga. (April 19), and two nights in Asheville, N.C. at Ellington Underground (April 20 and 21).