Plains, Duo Of Jess Williamson And Katie Crutchfield, Bring Country Music To NYC

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New York City is not generally known as being a country music hub—last year the Big Apple lost its only terrestrial country radio station. But for one brief moment, the city became a temporary and hospitable Southern home for Plains, the duo of singer-songwriters Jess Williamson and Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield. On Friday, the huge crowd inside Webster Hall turned out in full force for Plains’ sublime brand of country music that paid homage to the genre’s glorious past while steering a bright course for its future.

Williamson and Crutchfield are acclaimed artists in their own right who have recorded critically received records in the last couple of years—among them Williamson’s Sorceress and Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud, both released in 2020. Having been admirers of each others’ works, Williamson and Crutchfield joined forces as Plains and have proven through their singing and songwriting that two heads are better than one.

Last month, the relatively new act released their debut collaborative album, the brilliant I Walk With You a Ways, whose music eschews the slick sound coming out of Nashville today for something more traditional (think of such legends as Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, and the Judds) and whose introspective and personal lyrics reflect the musicians’ Southern roots.

Accompanied by their ace band for the Webster Hall show, Plains performed a majority of the tracks from I Walk With You a Ways with Crutchfield and Williams taking turns on lead vocals and acoustic guitars. Among the many standout songs from the setlist included “Problem With It,” the title song, “Abilene,” and “Hurricane.” The duo also threw in songs from their own individual solo albums: Crutchfield turned in “Can’t Do Much” and “Lilacs” from Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud, and Williamson played her “Wind on Tin” from Sorceress as well as a new song titled “Hunter.”

A few of the numbers from Plains’ set were covers, including the Terry Allen-penned “Amarillo Highway” (with guest MJ Lenderman, who opened the show) and the iconic Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson tune “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” which drew raves from the audience. The evening ended on an exuberant note when the duo played the Chicks’ popular and beloved tune “Goodbye Earl.”

Not only apparent on their new album, but the chemistry between Crutchfield and Williamson as Plains was quite evident at their Webster Hall show, especially when they harmonize with each other—it’s a great blend that recalls legendary vocal groups such as Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It’s been reported that this collaboration will only be a one-off project, but hopefully, Williamson and Crutchfield might reconsider that somewhere down the line because they work so well together.

Setlist:

Summer Sun

Problem With It

Line of Sight

Wind on Tin (Jess Williamson song)

Can’t Do Much (Waxahatchee song)

Bellafatima

Last 2 on Earth

Abilene

Lilacs (Waxahatchee song)

Easy

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys (Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson cover)

Hunter (Jess Williamson song)

No Record of Wrongs

I Walked With You a Ways

Hurricane

Encore:

Amarillo Highway (Terry Allen cover) (with MJ Lenderman)

Goodbye Earl (The Chicks cover)