Plains: I Walked With You A Ways

When Jess Williamson was on tour opening for Kevin Morby and Hamilton Leithauser in 2021, she’d occasionally invite up a special guest: Katie Crutchfield, who was using her downtime from Waxahatchee to hang on the road with Morby, who happens to be her partner. During the run, Williamson and Crutchfield would often duet on “Abilene,” a new country-ish waltz about the aftermath of love that marries their voices. A year later, that song serves as the centerpiece for Williamson and Crutchfield’s debut album as Plains. I Walked With You A Ways is a truly collaborative record; Williamson and Crutchfield share vocals (and each other’s pain) over 10 tracks mostly about heartache. Plains picks up on the Americana-leaning indie sound that Crutchfield mined on her 2020 career-shifter Saint Cloud but adds a country twist, as the duo pay homage (in their way) to the Shanias, Wynonnas and Dollys they grew up listening to. Brad Cook, who also helmed Saint Cloud, is back in the producer’s chair for this effort and a few tracks, like the hooky “Problem With It” and the Dobro-driven “Line of Sight,” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on that set. But that ignores the contributions of Williamson, who finds a new lane with her aching, soaring vocals—a contrast to both her 2020 indie folk album Sorceress and Crutchfield’s natural, raspy vocals. Cook, his brother Phil and Spencer Tweedy form the backbone of the band, anchoring the easy-breezy arrangements, with just enough twang and polish to conjure a ‘90s country sound. Morby assists with a co-write on Crutchfield’s “Last 2 On Earth,” which at times slides into honky tonk territory. But, while you can usually tell who authored which song—particularly if you can recognize the lead vocals—it’s more rewarding to pay attention to the ways in which Williamson and Crutchfield blend and meld their voices in unison, like on “No Record of Wrongs.”

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