Album after critically acclaimed album, Katie Crutchfield has proven herself to be one of the most emotive and direct songwriters in music today as the sole member of Waxahatchee. With a singular sound combining her deep Southern roots with the rolicking punk scenes she came of age in along with her twin sister, Allison of Swearin’ fame, Crutchfield’s songwriting has remained her calling card and secret weapon throughout her 15+ years in the music community all before even hitting 30. With such a storied past in music, she has been going through the oldest Waxahatchee archives in search of castaway gems that fans could now fully appreciate.
She started this off with releasing her “Early Recordings” collection back in 2016, and after last year’s raw and electric breaking-up opus “Out in the Storm,” Crutchfield new “Great Thunder EP” reimagines songs she wrote in 2012 after the release of her foundational second album “Cerulean Salt” with her short-lived project Great Thunder with Swearin’ bassist Keith Spencer. While she has made a few changes to modernize and reintroduce the songs, the humbled instrumentations of these six tracks leave plenty of room for her voice and lyrics to shine. Her voice alone fills up all that dead space, and then some.
All the songs follow a similar structure of a few open chords, plunking and chugging along quietly in the background. While it may first read as overly simplistic to fans of the blow-out-the-speakings wailing on “Out in the Storm,” the straightforwardness compliments the smokey Southern tinge on these heartfelt ballads. The solo piano plunking behind her on the opening track “Singer’s No Star” set’s the EP’s solitary, remote feeling. “We get comfortable with our detachment to our oldest friends, And you got me here where I’m left alone, I’m not the only thing you ever left.” The EP’s lead single, “Chapel of Pines,” solemnly strums around the question “Will you go?”, repeating the phrase over and over with a knowing sense of the answer.
“Great Thunder” is undoubtedly the most unabashedly country sounding release Waxahatchee has ever released, but her arresting songwriting can connect even with the most resistant county deniers. Crutchfield can set a scene like all her Southern influences like Lucinda Williams and Dolly Parton, but with the mind for ubiquitously relatable songs like a modern day Carole King. There’s a resounding sense of autumn in the EP’s cool but breezy progressions, like on the penultimate track “Slow You Down.” But the EP’s ends on the crushing, vulnerable “Take So Much,” her voice both heavenly air and Southern grit as she’s begging to have it all taken out on her if just to get someone to stay. It’s haunting in how deep a feeling Crutchfield can exhume in such simplistic song structures, but “Great Thunder” proves that her strengths as a singer and songwriter has been just as strong from the beginning of her career, and it seems her powers are still growing.