Album Review: Plains – I Walked With You A Ways

Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson pay tribute to classic country with a record that conjures images of wide open spaces and blue skies

A few years back, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee moved to the Midwest with her partner, singer/songwriter Kevin Morby. The move to rural climbs obviously left an imprint on their writing, as he turned out the cinematic and dusty Sundowner and This Is A Photograph while Crutchfield embraced a countrified sound on last year’s wonderful Saint Cloud.

Plains, Crutchfield’s new duo with singer/songwriter Jess Williamson, is a natural progression both from Saint Cloud and Williamson’s haunting 2020 album Sorceress. Together, the two lean into the country elements that have hung around the fringes of their work, creating an album that feels warm, welcoming and refreshingly old fashioned.

Plains - "Hurricane"

Crutchfield and Williamson’s voices complement each other ridiculously well. The former’s gusto and dynamism make for a perfect foil for the latter’s pure, sweet trill. The closest comparison, in country terms, would be Wynonna Judd and Emmylou Harris, a combination we’ve never got nearly enough of.

Right out of the gate, Williamson sounds like she’s singing about being the dutiful wife of classic country (“I’d cook for you like a good woman do”), an impression bolstered by the sprightly music and the sweetness of her voice. But the deeper you dig, you realise that she’s playing a role, trying her hardest to cover the fact that her heart isn’t in it.

Plains - "Abilene"

Lead single ‘Problem With It’ – which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Saint Cloud – takes full advantage of Crutchfield’s smoky voice and a searing guitar solo to create a soundtrack for every road trip to freedom. The heartbroken, swaying country waltz ‘Abilene’ (with a video starring Texan yoga sensation Adriene Mishler) could be an unearthed treasure from one of the country greats with its vivid imagery of a life and love that turned against the song’s narrator. ‘Hurricane’, a gorgeous tale of acceptance in love, intertwines the two voices most effectively of all.

Plains - "Problem With It"

It’s easy to imagine throughout I Walked With You A Ways that Crutchfield and Williamson are singing these songs alone on some vast plain, spinning and laughing as their voices rise up to a giant expanse of blue. It’s that liberation and free-spirit that makes it such a compelling listen and a place you’ll want to keep revisiting.

I Walked With You A Ways by Plains is out now to buy and stream