Still a few reviews in the pipeline, but this one was published this week over at the Lonesome Road Review. I very much enjoyed this album- one of the best I’ve heard this year- and am pleased with the way the review turned out.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
By Donald Teplyske
Remember the first time you heard Sturgill Simpson? Zoe Muth? Kasey Chambers? Recall that flush of excitement on hearing Katy Moffatt thirty years ago? Linda McRae or Neko Case, back when she recorded The Virginian?
Get ready, ’cause Kelsey Waldon is going to leap though your ear buds, turn around and smack you upside the cranium while doing a two-step shuffle on your shoulder.
When not slinging drinks in a Nashville institution of higher yearning, this western Kentucky native—Monkey’s Eyebrow, Ballard County, to be exact—found time to write and record eleven songs of two-lane highways, neon signs, troubled love, betrayal, and confusion that are among the most special encountered in these early months of 2015.
Released last summer, this unassuming album got misplaced in the shuffle that is my work environment, and I am darned sorry for that oversight. A lot has been written over the past couple decades about the marginalized role neo-traditionalists have in the modern county music landscape, but thank goodness there are still those like Waldon fighting the good fight. Building on a pair of EPs, The Goldmine is her first full-length release.
With less a twang in her voice than a natural inclination toward honesty in phrasing (Merle Haggard comes to mind… a “mama tried” even gets dropped midset), Waldon bridges the gaps between Mandy Barnett retro-fusion, Patty Loveless country bombast, and Brandy Clark sheen. Within her songs is the singularity of vision that sometimes gets lost when interpreting songs written by committee.
Without blurring lines, Waldon has created a pure country album of the type Dallas Wayne and Kelly Willis once made: modern music created within a rich, insulated atmosphere that push chart-watching constraints aside. Some of the credit certainly needs to go to producer and bassist Michael Rinne; enlisting folks like Brett Resnick (pedal steel,) Jeremy Fetzer (guitars,) and Christian Sedelmyer (fiddle), he has craft a vibrant instrumental backdrop that never becomes too lush, although it comes close on “Quicksand.”
“Town Clown” explores back alley unfaithfulness the way Loretta Lynn might have in her more vulnerable moments; singing of town folk in the know who “just laugh and turn the other way,” Waldon faces down her trifling beau in the only way she can—she writes a song capturing the agony of being the last to discover his infidelity. “I don’t know who I am, and I can’t even say I give a damn,” are the opening lyrics to “Pride,” a song where her guitar smells like cigarettes and everyone feels like a stranger in their hometown.
Waldon realizes strength isn’t to be found by burning the bar, house, and town down around you, it has to grow within, be nurtured by the experience that challenging times provide. “Time and misery they want the best of me, but I’m feeling fine ’bout as far as you can see,” she sings in “Big Black Limousine.”
“High in heels, high on pills,” door-knocking evangelists, and slow motion suicide come together in “High in Heels,” the song that comes closest to serving as Waldon’s thesis statement, and it has to be heard to be fully grasped: life happens, and sometimes all you can do is hold your shit together the best you can while worrying about the groceries, bills, and family.
The album closes with the introspective and hopeful “Getting There,” where Waldon sings, “You can’t change a memory in time,” while lamenting that “I’m never arriving, always getting there.”
The Goldmine would suggest that she is has actually done exactly that—Kelsey Waldon has arrived.