Kelsey started playing guitar to help her cope with her parent’s divorce when she was 13, and moved to Nashville from Kentucky ” on a whim” subsequently studying Songwriting and Music Business at university. Her hard work is seemingly paying off, with her 2014 album ” The Gold Mine” being released to much critical acclaim and Rolling Stone naming her as one of the ten most ” buzzworthy new acts in Country and Americana” that same year. However, Kelsey Waldon is a name that has slipped under my radar until now. I can’t even remember how I was alerted to this, her follow up album, but I am so glad I was! It really is a gem of a find for me, and if like myself you are a fan of the more traditional sounding country music that Kelsey grew up with and which has obviously influenced her I am sure you will agree. Her wonderfully pure voice ( none of the harmonies i usually love so much, just perfect lead vocals) and fairly simple arrangements got me hooked form the start, then the lyrics grabbed my attention……….you will no doubt see what I mean if you give ” All By Myself”, the album’s lead single, a listen
There are nine solo writes and two covers on this album, a collection of songs she describes as “empowering and uplifting”……” my exploration of all the things that really matter in this world, staying true to who I am and to the things that I actually care about” . This is evident from the start, the opening track ” Dirty Old Town” being an uptempo, honky tonk write about refusing to let your surroundings or other people drag you down and never compromising on your dreams. The song introduces us to the wonderful pedal steel playing of Brett Resnick ( he also currently plays for Cale Tyson ) which is a welcome feature throughout the album. Here’s an equally great live performance of the track
While most of the numbers are slower paced, the opener’s vibe is recreated further down the track listing in ” False King”, a really clever and often humorous song taking a dig at the way some artists these days are seemingly built up to be something they aren’t, an instant manufactured product of the music industry, while she favours ” doing it right, taking your time and staying true to who you are ” ………”I know some of y’all know what I mean, when i say you can’t place a crown on the head of a clown and then hope he turns out to be a king” she sings in the catchy chorus. Amen to all of that!!
Of the slower numbers ( where i think the album’s strengths lie, showcasing Kelsey’s emotional vocals) the afore mentioned ” All By Myself” is a real standout song and one i am sure many will relate to, making it a great single choice. Not being answerable to, or needing, anyone but standing on your own two feet and being proud to do so is the message here .With a simple guitar accompaniment at the start, the other instruments kick in perfectly after the first verse and i particularly love the electric guitar on this one.
I could comment on all the tracks as I don’t think there is a weak one on the album, but i will just pick out one more of Kelsey’s own compositions which i am particularly drawn to. ” I’d Rather Go On” is a beautiful lilting waltz, a real tear jerker of a break up song, (every country album needs one!!) about a relationship holding back and stifling personal development. Although she still loves and cares for her partner why does that mean ” we can’t ever move on to anywhere?” . Their lives are just made up of petty things that mean nothing, something she is not willing to settle for. The steel accompaniment is perfection.
The two songs Kelsey choses to cover demonstrate her musical inspirations perfectly, and her interpretations are really wonderful. ” There Must Be Someone” was written by Vern and Rex Godsin and recorded by the Byrds for their 1969 album ” Ballad of East Rider” but i much prefer the emotion that Kelsey manages to convey in her version. ” Travelin’ Down This Lonesome Road” was written by Bill Monroe, like Kelsey hailing from Kentucky, who is credited with being the creator of the bluegrass music she grew up listening to and which has been a big influence on her. The song has been covered by many artists over the years and is a perfect choice for Kelsey’s plaintive vocals. I’m not sure how it falls into the “empowering and uplifting” category, but what the heck!
So, after immersing myself in this album for several days, I now plan to catch up with its predecessor. It is refreshing, in times when the lines between country music and other genres are often blurred, to hear a singer/songwriter staying true to themselves and the music they love, and not caving in to commercial pressure ( Margo Price is another who springs to mind, no doubt comparisons will be made between these two ladies if they haven’t been already) . I have already heard a track from this album on UK radio, I wonder if there are any tour dates over here in the pipeline because if there are I will be one of the first in line when tickets go on sale!