Music Review: Waxahatchee's alt-country soars, enjoys simple pleasures on ‘Tigers Blood’    

The indie alt-country musician Waxahatchee masters her craft on her sixth studio album, “Tigers Blood.”

After touring with power pop-punk bands P.S. Eliot and Bad Banana, Alabama-born singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield formed Waxahatchee in 2010. The scrappy lo-fi days are over: “Tigers Blood” is the work of a new artist and a natural progression from 2020's “Saint Cloud,” which opened to a wider audience. The critical acclaim went beyond her indie work, confirming her as a key voice in contemporary Americana.

Waxahatchee records work best when they mirror daily life. “Tigers Blood,” shows a wiser, more thoughtful artist that is content. Listen to “Evil Spawn”. Over escalating guitars, Crutchfield says, “What you thought was enough now seems insane.” On the rural dream “Lone Star Lake,” Crutchfield sings about driving to a lake and sleeping all day.

This album's simple joys differ from her past efforts. A short listen to 2017's “Out of the Storm” shows a different musician until her twang emerges in quiet harmonies, such on “8 Ball.”) Gone are tortured feelings and self-doubt portrayed through distorted guitars and indie rock sensibilities.

It's practically a lifetime away from the purity of the title track, when Crutchfield sings of summertime, youth, and "tigers blood," a snow cone flavor, on banjo and electric slide guitar. “You’re laughing and smiling, drove my jeep through the mud/Your teeth and your tongue bright red from tigers blood/We were young for so long, seersuckers of time,” Crutchfield sings, nostalgic without sappy.

In recent years, many indie rock artists have leaned into folk and country influences, but Crutchfield has always been drawn to those sounds. She's known for her poignant lyrics sung with a twang, never shying away from her Southern roots, and her admiration for Lucinda Williams. 

Her side project, Plains, with Texan artist Jess Williamson, features it. On “Tigers Blood,” Dobro and harmonica blend with indie rock. With its energetic chorus and pedal steel, “Bored” recalls Waxahatchee.

The lead track, “Right Back to It,” includes guitarist MJ Lenderman of indie rock band Wednesday, whose 2023 album “Rat Saw God” was named one of AP’s best of 2023. Lenderman features on several “Tigers Blood” songs. An Americana tune that swings between country and indie rock, it rests in the middle, reflecting the words

The goal is to ease into a stable relationship's later years. “Let my mind run wild/I don't know why I do it/But you just settle in/Like a song with no end,” they sing. The record's thesis statement is a rootsy love letter to her genres, contentment, and artistic growth.

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