Tigers Blood review | Waxahatchee roars with self-assurance

Tigers Blood by Waxahatchee is an observation of the world around Katie Crutchfield, and an ode to her renewed sense of self within it.

Throughout her past five albums as Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield has written with an inward-gazing sensibility, typified by her 2020 breakthrough album Saint Cloud

One of alt-country music’s most sincere voices, much has been made of Crutchfield’s sobriety throughout by the press, who latched on to the notion and attributed her entire last album to her process of quitting booze and drugs back in 2017. As it turns out, addiction didn’t plague her as relentlessly as other artists. Saint Cloud was more about her battling a different, new version of herself. 

Now, on her sixth studio album, Tigers Blood, she roars more self-assuredly than ever. 

Teaming up with producer Phil Cook once again, Crutchfield has resisted the temptation to go full-blown country pop after her breakthrough. Instead, she’s doubled down on the recipe of characteristics that helped Saint Cloud resonate so universally. Throughout its twelve songs, Tigers Blood feels like Crutchfield taking a punt at making her ‘classic’ album, one that’s concurrently timeless and of our times. 

“I make a living crying, it ain’t fair,“ she coos plaintively on opener ‘3 Sisters’, aware that her lyricism has previously plundered the depths of her insecurities. The Southern cadences of her singularly gut-punching vocal coax out tears at every possible turn, evoking sticky sunsets and weeping willows draping over the tranquil Waxahatchee Creek in Alabama that feels so tightly tied to her identity. 


Her relationship with her partner and sometime collaborator, Kevin Morby, even becomes sharper at several junctures. On the twinkling, harmonic single ‘365’, she attests to sharing the cyclical symptoms and cure with her lover (‘I catch your poison arrow, I catch your same disease’). She admitted ‘Right Back To It’ was the first love song she’s ever written, a romantic contender for the top spot on various year-end song lists. Instead of Morby duetting with Crutchfield, however, indie folk wunderkind MJ Lenderman – a consistent presence throughout the album – offers a gentle vocal balance during the glittering chorus.

Crutchfield’s confident worldview shines in her storytelling, yet Tigers Blood lacks the drama or sense of peril about sharing her doubts and demons, which makes Saint Cloud so compelling. There’s adequate space for defiant, bolshy statements regarding her maturation, however. 

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‘Ice Cold’ is a rollicking, boot-kickin’ country rock barnstormer. In the nineties-indebted dream-poppy ‘Crowbar’, Crutchfield groans “, I know that you can’t read my mind, but I swear I said the same thing a hundred times”, growing audibly tiresome with challenging, diminishing friendships. On ‘Bored’, she goes full throttle with her lack of pleasantries, near-screaming “My benevolence just hits the floor, I get boooooooooored”, aided by shredding, Pixies-esque electric guitar. 

If Saint Cloud was a document of her coming to terms with her place in a new world of sobriety, Tigers Blood is an observation of the world around her and an ode to her renewed sense of self within it.

Photo credit: Molly Matalon

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