Live Review: Plains And MJ Lenderman, Philadelphia, PA, Nov. 10, 2022

Katie Crutchfield has the good fortune to be able to harmonize with anyone. But even in a career rich with beautifully blended voices—notably as Waxahatchee, in P.S. Eliot with twin sister Allison and alongside husband Kevin Morby—her collaboration with Jess Williamson, the plainly named Plains, is extraordinary.

At Union Transfer, Crutchfield, Williamson and their band played timeless country music that could impress the late greats and win over skeptics. From originals like “Problem With It,” “No Record Of Wrongs” and “Abilene” (all from their lovely album I Walked With You A Ways) to material from their respective careers (Waxahatchee’s “Can’t Do Much,” Williamson’s “Wind On Tin” and brand-new “Hunter”) to borrowed hits like the (Dixie) Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” and Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” they stripped every song down to its simple humanity, sorrow and relief and wariness and grit, all woven together by their soaring voices and tight band.

Whether this is just Plains’ first go-round or a one-off, it ought to stand as a career highlight for both frontwomen.

MJ Lenderman & The Wind opened with a breezy Americana set that was two parts jam and one part prickle. I preferred the Young and (Sonic) Youth moments to the Dylan and the Dead bits, but there were plenty of good vibes to go around. Watching and listening to Francie Medosch dancing and leaping while playing guitar was a joy, Xandy Chelmis’ pedal steel was irresistible, and “Tastes Just Like It Costs” made for an excellent farewell.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

MJ Lenderman & The Wind