Katie Toupin Credit: Courtesy of Rek Room Media

As the keyboardist of Indiana roots-rock group Houndmouth, Katie Toupin was mostly in the background. But when she got a turn at singing, such as on the band’s 2012 single “Houston Train,” she was mesmerizing. Her voice is sharp, harsh, and perfect—think Iris Dement with more swagger. Listening to that track, you had to wonder why she wasn’t performing on her own. Sure enough, she left Houndmouth in 2016 and swapped her keys for a guitar as the leader of her own band. Last year she released her first solo EP, Moroccan Ballroom, which doesn’t quite live up to the promise of “Houston Train.” Toupin’s songwriting is hit-or-miss; the up-tempo “Shake Baby” is poppy, grating, and ill-suited to her vocal timbre. But when she connects, she’s a powerhouse. Album highlight “Love Ain’t Giving Up,” recorded in a single take, is a stripped-down tune built on acoustic guitar and quiet piano—a low-key approach that gives Toupin a lot of space to weight her lyrics with pathos and world-weary hope (“You don’t got to be alone in your silence”). Her live performance of the old blues “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” is even better, filled with personality, off-hand bitterness, and an easy swing. Though Toupin hasn’t quite found her groove yet, she’s worth listening to as she looks for it.   v