Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud (3 stars)

Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud

Katie Crutchfield returns with her fifth album under the Waxahatchee moniker

Philadelphia-based indie troubadour Katie Crutchfield is an intense wordsmith and a nimble tunesmith. She barely catches breath on her fifth album as Waxahatchee, there's so much ground to cover. Yet Saint Cloud is far from overbearing when it could have been an outright indulgence.

For this is Crutchfield's sobriety record, the one where she has to take a passionate dispassionate look at her drinking through the prism of relationships with those it affected, including herself. Along the way, she motors around the southern states, getting back to her roots.

Her musical alias is the name of the creek behind her childhood home, which she name-checks in the track 'Ruby Falls'. Elsewhere, she paints a hazy picture of the fast lane in slow country, easing in with the weary plod of 'Oxbow' before getting going, musically speaking, with the country meander of 'Can't Do Much' on which she showcases a hint of Dolly Parton-esque quaver and a fondness for inventive imagery: 'my eyes roll around like dice on the felt'.

She chronicles a drive across the Mississippi on uncluttered country pop number 'Fire', multi-tracking her voice over an electronic pulse. 'The Eye' is a poetic ballad on the loneliness of the long distance musician ('a complicated love you chose') and 'Lilacs', a more declamatory appeal for support to fill the void left by liquor.

None of this is couched in particularly heavy language but a salvo of upbeat numbers does lift musical proceedings. Catchy confessional 'Hell' says it like it is ('I'll put you through hell'), while the easy country rock flow of 'Witches' is topped with Crutchfield's mildly rasping tone as she celebrates devil-may-care drinking buddies: 'we do stupid things in the right way'.

Alcohol and country music have long had a co-dependent relationship but Crutchfield steers an offbeat course with the evocative storytelling of 'Arkadelphia' and bittersweet songwriter confessional 'St. Cloud'.

Out Fri 27 Mar on Merge Records.

Waxahatchee

Brooklyn singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield plays contemporary alternative folk songs.

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