Plains — I Walked With You A Ways
When I was a kid (more than a couple of decades ago), visits to far-flung family involved long car trips with only an AM radio to provide a soundtrack. What music we could find was filled with sunny, easy-going harmonies and just a little bit of wistfulness. The new album from Plains, a collaboration between Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) and Jess Williamson, reminds me of those long-ago trips. I Walked With You A Ways reimagines those beautiful 70s AM gold harmonies as if they’d been written into songs by two of today’s best writers.
Williamson and Crutchfield share songwriting duties on I Walked With You A Ways (plus a song written with Crutchfield’s partner, Kevin Morby, and a cover of Hoyt Van Tanner’s lonesome Texas waltz “Bellafatima”), and they recruited a crack band fronted by producer Brad Cook and featuring Spencer Tweedy on drums, but the finest moments on the record come from the women’s harmonies on their gently melancholy songs. Lead track “Summer Sun” (written by Williamson) is a warm, banjo-inflected tune with nostalgia for an abandoned relationship – “My heart was hidden behind a wall/That came before you/It’s really no one’s fault/But I tried to warn you.” First single “Problem With It” (penned by Crutchfield) rides on a cool electric riff and is a bit more direct – “Justified it in my own way/I lost myself in it/If it’s all you got, it’s enough you say/I got a problem with it.”
Hitting the road and leaving life’s messes behind in a hail of dust and gravel is a theme on I Walked With You A Ways. Whether it’s Crutchfield fleeing the scene in “Problem With It” – “Got a heartbreak burn, take the quickest route” – or Williamson leaving Texas behind in the stunning “Abilene” with a sharp twist of regret – “No turning the garden, no toys on the floor/So I don’t take about Abilene no more” – both songwriters portray women who won’t sacrifice happiness for sentiment and easy comfort, even with full knowledge of what they’ve left behind. But fleeting happiness is found in tracks like “Last 2 On Earth,” the song that Crutchfield wrote with Morby. The Dobro- and piano-laced tune does find a moment in the chaos, even if it doesn’t last – “Leaving here tomorrow if it don’t go my way/And if it does or doesn’t, don’t have much of a say.” It’s a great line from a duo who took a stab at an album that most definitely DOES end up going their way. Crutchfield and Williamson insist that this record is a one-off, but I’m hoping they’ll reconsider – I’ve still got a few summer road trips left in me, and I need a great soundtrack.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Abilene” – gorgeous harmonies on one of the best songs of the year.
I Walked With You A Ways was produced by Brad Cook, engineered by Jon Ashley, mixed by Alex Farrar and mastered by Emily Lazar and Chris Allgood. All songs were written by Jess Williamson and Katie Crutchfield (co-write on “Last 2 On Earth” – Kevin Morby), except for “Bellafatima,” written by Hoyt Van Tanner. Additional musicians on the album include Brad Cook (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, Wurlitzer, Mellotron, bass), Phil Cook (piano, Wurlitzer, organ, Dobro, banjo, electric slide), Spencer Tweedy (drums, percussion), Andrew Marlin (mandolin, acoustic guitar), Libby Rodenbough (fiddle) and Alex Farrar (electric guitar).
Go here to order I Walked With You A Ways (out October 14): https://kf-merch.com/collections/plains
Check out tour dates here: https://plainsband.com/