I’m With Her is three powerhouse women from the Americana/roots genre, Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan. Read their brief history on their website. If you are a fan of any of these three (or all three), their collaborative debut album, See You Around, does not disappoint. It’s everything you hoped it would be, strong musicianship combined with luscious, gorgeous harmonizing. That’s all I really need to say about the music. Not because it isn’t fantastic, but simply because you can listen to the album and judge for yourself.
There was a time when music reviews helped you decide the records to spend your hard earned cash on. That time has passed. With so many streaming services, YouTube, and various other online resources, you no longer need to sift through reviews that describe music with descriptors like torrid and blistering. You can simply listen to the music and decide if it appeals to you. Depending on your opinion (and budget), you can then determine if it’s worth it to buy the physical media or to just stick with streaming services. So really, the question these days is: Do I buy the vinyl?
To most people who collect and listen to records, the most important factor is the pressing and how it sounds. I have had my issues with Rounder Records in the past, specifically the pressings of one of the most famous Rounder artists. Alison Krauss’ Now That I Found You: A Collection suffers from a pretty severe pressing issue. At least the FOUR copies of this LP I own do. They all have an obscene amount of surface noise on the second side. One of my copies of Paper Airplane is so warped, I get ocean sickness watching the stylus go up and down like it’s a surfer riding black vinyl groovy waves. It was with some hesitation I purchased this record.
Fortunately, my fears in this case were unfounded. The record is flat and plays beautifully. There was no audible surface noise, not even the familiar static that most new records have on the first few listens. That’s especially important on this record because any amount of surface noise detracts from this brand of acoustic music. The lack of marbling allows you to breathe in the delicate vocal performances. This is a fine pressing.
The Sound of the Vinyl
When comparing the vinyl to the Spotify stream (on the same system) there is noticeable difference. Don’t laugh. A lot of times, especially with record company reissues and some modern releases, the differences between the vinyl and the digital stream are negligible. On the vinyl I clearly hear the bow striking the fiddle strings and the reverberation of the acoustic guitar. These subtleties that add depth and realism are lost in the compressed versions of the songs. The excellent production, mastering, and pressing of this record all create that “in your living room” feel. And who wouldn’t want Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan in their living room?
The inner sleeve is a standard vinyl sleeve that hugs the record like a jealous spouse and refuses to let it come out to play. As I do with all records I own, I replaced it immediately with a Mobile Fidelity Sleeve. There’s some fine photographs of the three musicians in the studio on one side and lyrics and Thank You’s on the other. The lyrics are legible so I’ve no quarrel with that. However, the Thank You section is printed with white font… on a gray background. Now, I realize I’m somewhat older so my eyesight isn’t as acute as someone twenty years younger. But, damn, white on gray? Anyway, it’s not a major issue, but I did almost go blind trying to read the liner notes.
Another insert is a full size postcard of the three musicians. It’s a decent insert and a fine picture, though I’m not really sure what I’ll do with it.
Lastly, there’s the requisite download card that provides the ability to download a digital copy of the album. I much prefer when a CD is included that I can rip with EAC, but I’m sure it’s cheaper to just make digital copies available online. A complaint I have with this method is the digital files are often compressed. I bought the vinyl album not to be a cool hipster who owns stuff, but because I wanted to hear the music in full range auditory bliss. If you’re going to provide digital downloads, can you please make FLAC or WAV files available? Unfortunately, this is just another mp3 download.
If you enjoy the music on this album, the vinyl is worth purchasing. The excellent pressing and mastering of the vinyl makes it distinguishable from digital counterparts. There’s enough extras to look at and read during the initial listening. Acoustic roots music like this needs to be on vinyl. And it needs to be done right on vinyl. This is an example of acoustic music done right. I’ve listened to the record several times now and so far it has gotten better with every listen. I’m With Her is currently touring and I’m certain these three seasoned performers would spin a memorable night. Unfortunately, the show is sold out in my hometown. So I guess I’m stuck with the vinyl… which really ain’t a bad thing, at all.
Label: Rounder Records
Catalog Number: 1166100318
For those unwilling to do a quick search, you can listen to the album and read a more formal review of the album on NPR’s site.
Amazon Link: I’m With Her – See You Around