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Waxahatchee: ‘Our last stop on this tour is Ireland. It’s very nice to go out with a bang’

In the first of three Dublin shows, the singer treats the sell-out audience to an evening of tidal emotions strummed simply on an acoustic guitar


Pepper Canister, Dublin

Katie Crutchfield has taken Taylor Swift’s journey in reverse. Where Swift began as a country star and then gear-shifted to pop, Crutchfield, who records as Waxahatchee, has gone in the opposite direction. She started out making bruised indie rock. But now she has come back around to the homespun music in which she was steeped as a child in the American south.

Crutchfield named Waxahatchee after a creek near where she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. That choice proved paradoxical early in her career, when, musically and otherwise, she couldn’t get away from the state fast enough. But Crutchfield would return to the sounds that shaped her, and in the first of three Dublin shows at St Stephen’s Church, aka the Pepper Canister, she negotiates timeworn country tropes of loss and longing with thoughtfulness and vivacity.

Wearing a simple white dress, a sprinkling of glitter around her eyes, she treats the sell-out audience to an evening of tidal emotions strummed simply on an acoustic guitar. “I want it all,” Crutchfield sings on her stripped-down opening song, Oxbow, one of her many ballads about her battle for sobriety after too many late nights on the road.

Her struggle with addiction is the theme threaded through her acclaimed 2020 album, St Cloud. A critical and commercial breakout, the LP combines intricate songwriting and blood-on-the-carpet lyrics. Framed by angst, it arrives at a place somehow both comforting and profound.


With the church’s frescoes of figures from the Bible looking on in what seems like mild shock, Crutchfield re-creates those seismic emotions with impressive delicacy. Lilacs is a bone-weary break-up ballad showcasing a voice that hits like sugar-spun shrapnel. And Problem With It, from Plains, her 2022 collaboration with the singer Jess Williamson, blends wistful country with starburst melodies carried over from those years as a fuzz-drenched indie rocker.

Crutchfield’s lyrics tend towards the abstract. If she hadn’t explained in interviews that St Cloud was about her struggle for sobriety, you’d never glean it from the songs. However, she says the quiet bit out loud on a cover of Everything I Love, by the 1990s Nashville star Alan Jackson. “Everything I love is killin’ me,” she croons, “cigarettes, Jack Daniel’s and caffeine.” She delivers the lyrics with a bracing drollness, but underpinned with a heartfelt twang.

“Our last stop on this tour is Ireland,” she says, taking a breather. “It’s very nice that we’re going out with a bang.” “Bang” is one word for it. But as she encores with the title track from St Cloud, intoning the mantra-like chorus of “When I go” over and over, the gig feels more like an extended exercise in soul-baring. Crutchfield’s music fuses country melodrama and quietly wondering spirituality – and a church is absolutely the best place to experience it.

Tickets are still available for Waxahatchee’s show at the Pepper Canister church, Dublin 2, on Tuesday, April 25th

Ed Power

Ed Power

Ed Power, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about television and other cultural topics