Medium Rotation — I Walked With You a Ways; Shufflemania!

PLAINS I Walked With You a Ways (Anti-) — I Walked With You a Ways is the sound of kinship. Katie Crutchfield, the heart, soul, and everything else of Waxahatchee, and Jess Williamson bonded over the soulful country music that reverberated through their respective Southern homelands of Alabama and Texas, stirred to their rhapsodic remembrances in part by a Terry Allen concert they both attended in Los Angeles. The two started writing together and before long they has a shared songbook filled with wistful songs that effortless evoke the twangy tenderness of Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and a host of others. Rather than split up the tunes to their main gigs, Crutchfield and Williamson recorded them together, adopting the name Plains for their evidently one-and-done act. The resulting album is a warm, breezy wonder that absolutely overflows with cuts that feel so effortless that they must be timeless, plucked from a collective memory that only they knew how to fully access. Album opener “Summer Sun” sets the figurative stage perfectly with its plunky tones and rapturous harmonies. The most impressive evocation of sawdusty songs from years gone by might be the manner in which poignancy resides in these tracks without any anxious, modern fuss, a quality exemplified by the exquisitely economical storytelling on “Abilene”: “Young lovers like to dream/ We’ll settle down and make a good team/ Well, Main Street was cute and the rents there were cheap/ But I was too much for you and for your Abilene.” Crutchfield and Williamson trade leads and perspectives back and forth easily, finding synchronicity in every note, beat, and heartbreaking lyric. In addition to the tracks already mentioned, keep the satisfying stride with “Line of Sight,” “Hurricane,” “Easy,” and “No Record of Wrongs.”

ROBYN HITCHCOCK Shufflemania! (Tiny Ghost Records) — At times, it seemed like Robyn Hitchcock was busier than ever during the long shutdowns that happened during the pandemic. He and his partner in an all things, Emma Swift, regularly streamed live performances from their Nashville home, often with appearances from the felicitous felines Tubby and Ringo. It also turns out that he did some recording, too, casting audio files to collaboration-inclined pals across the club, such as Johnny Marr and Sean Ono Lennon, to mold into being a studio album that sounds as professionally polished as anything in his long, illustriously idiosyncratic career. Shufflemania! abounds in Hitchcock’s signature sounds, from the rolling opener “The Shuffle Man” to the delicately Beatlesque closer “One Day (It’s Being Scheduled).” When he croons the lyrics “Respect the dead/ You will be joining them soon” (on “The Man Who Loves the Rain”), longtime Hitchcock fans will feel the happy satisfaction of an old pro on familiar terrain, where he finds dark loveliness in topics other might see as morbid or gloomy. Hitchcock keeps eddying up splendid spouts of melodic brilliance. For fans of the whole Hitchcock household, listen to for the shoutout to Tubby on the intro to “Midnight Tram to Nowhere.” And listen to these cuts, too: “The Inner Life of Scorpio” “The Sir Tommy Shovel”

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