Single Review: I’m With Her – ‘Crossing Muddy Waters’
April 2, 2015
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“Crossing Muddy Waters” debuts I’m With Her, an impromptu collaboration between Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan. The trio, which formed serendipitously during the 2014 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, has graced us with a delicate reading of title track from John Hiatt’s fifteen-year-old acoustic record.
Since “Crossing Muddy Waters” is already a folksy bluegrass song, the trio’s arrangement isn’t a revelatory reinterpretation but rather a faithful take on Hiatt’s track. The production (Watkins on fiddle, Jarosz on banjo, and O’Donovan on guitar) is still gorgeous, beaming with an unexpectedly full sound considering the use of just three instruments.
The record is anchored by two distinctly different altos – O’Donovan gives the verses a delicate whisper while Watkins infuses the chorus with her distinctive smokiness. The effect gives the record a lighter than air quality, perfectly matching the delicateness they bring when plucking away on their instruments.
While the recording itself isn’t spellbinding, the addition of Watkins gives the tune an extra spice, uniqueness unmatched by O’Donovan and Jarosz. Watkins, who has found her voice experimenting through two vastly different solo albums, has grown increasingly more confident the more comfortable she becomes within the space she’s carved out for herself as an artist and performer. Her fascinating artistic development has informed her most recent work with Nickel Creek and now I’m With Her.
There’s nothing but potential here, which is the most exciting takeaway from this recording. I’m With Her has a solid foundation both sonically and vocally. They also have the opportunity to reap great rewards should they continue to develop and take risks. “Crossing Muddy Waters” is merely an amuse-bouche, a tiny bite of a full-length album they haven’t yet committed to make (they’re all working on solo records at the moment). If they do, it’ll hopefully contain original music that’ll allow the trio to find their collective voice as a band.
Note: “Crossing Muddy Waters” is part of a 7” currently available for pre-order at their online store. They pair the song with their version of “Be My Husband,” which was written by Andy Stroud and recorded by his wife Nina Simone in the mid-1960s.