Katie Crutchfield was apologetic about having to disappear off-screen for a couple of minutes mid-stream while she got herself a drink of water. “It’s so hot in here,” said the singer/songwriter, whose act goes by Waxahatchee, named after Waxahatchee Creek in Alabama where she grew up. Her July 6 concert was taking place from her Kansas City, MO home. In the concurrent chat section of the livestream, members of the audience said how Crutchfield’s “Saint Cloud,” on her latest album of the same name which dropped in late March, had been their ‘quarantine soundtrack’.. This could be because the piece is so grounded and calming, reminiscent of a simpler time.
Crutchfield is an appealing, personable performer. She wore a sky blue dress and bright red lipstick, and shuffled through papers containing her lyrics, strumming gently on her guitar. Her relaxed, fuss-free show felt almost like a one-on-one Skype session with a friend. In the background sat Mason jars of red roses, dozens of them atop wooden tri-legged stools, picking up the sunset shades of the walls.
She started with “Oxbow,” a gently melodic piece with esoteric lyrics along the lines of “A speck in the oxbow, depressing by design, if I go along with it, am I lying to you?” Her pieces easily flowed into one another; she segued into “Can’t Do Much,” a modern love song, in which she professes her love to a partner, singing ‘”When you see me, I’m honey on a spoon.” In “Lilacs,” the lyrics may be incongruously dark, but it was still performed in an easygoing manner. In “Arkadelphia,” she was inspired by the story of someone struggling with addiction, and the song is predicated on imagery of the South.
Her style crosses genres because the music and melodies are soothing, feeling like the sort of thing you would hear sung around a campfire on a hot summer night, the soft twang of a guitar lulling you to sleep. But the lyrics she writes are profound and incisive. “I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky…Past places been tainted…Will you drain me back out.”
Because there was barely any change in tempo or mood throughout, the concert had the sensibility of one long song, split up into vignettes, like a story. A lengthy portrait of the travails of life in middle America, almost more poetic than musical—a ballad of sorts.
As she brought on partner Kevin Morby to close the set, it was even more apparent how minimalistic and unique her brand of music is. It doesn’t pander to mainstream trends, or the public preference for catchy melodies and swift progressions. Instead, Crutchfield chooses to take a musical path as wild, natural and unencumbered as the rural locations she sings about. And that’s a beautiful thing.