Artist: Kelsey Waldon
Album: I've Got a Way
Label: Monkey's Eyebrow
Release Date: 08/12/2016
It’s refreshing to hear pure country music from a young artist these days. Kelsey Waldon certainly has the profile, let alone the voice and songwriting skills. She was raised in Monkey’s Eyebrow, KY, in rural Ballard County, where her family has worked on tobacco farms for decades. Upon her parents’ divorce when she was only 13, Waldon started playing guitar– first it was merely a means to cope, but later it developed into a calling. She never intended to go to college, but eventually received her degree in Songwriting and Music Business from Belmont University in Nashville. Prior to that, she worked more than 45 hours per week at minimum wage jobs working late night shifts and playing whenever she could get on a stage. This is her sophomore effort following 2014’s The Goldmine.
While that first album was an opportunity to gain her footing, this one bristles with confidence and some excellent songs. The chord progressions and riffs are all of the standard country variety – it’s straight ahead, not musically inventive. But, it’s the lyrics and the attitude that grab your attention. Waldon wrote nine of the eleven songs, also covering Vern and Rex Gosdin’s “There Must Be a Someone” and Bill Monroe’s “Travelin’ Down This Lonesome Road.” There are three originals that are particularly strong. She’s even done a video for “All By Myself” of which she says, “I had originally written it about one thing, but it turns out that it wasn’t really about me; it was about everyone. It is not a lecture, or a sermon, or a statement from me. I want it to be a statement for everyone, as a whole: The power is only inside of ourselves.” Another message song is “Don’t Hurt the Ones (Who’ve Loved You the Most)” and she also has the obligatory country kiss-off song “You Can Have It.” Rather than seeing it as an ornery statement tough, she sees it this way, “For me, this is about peace and contentment within yourself. That place you arrive at in your life where the fear of missing out — or the pressure of pleasing anyone else — doesn’t seem to faze you anymore. It’s like, “You’re either in or you’re out… and if you’re out, that’s fine. I’ll be over here, and I’ll still be alright”
While Waldon doesn’t bring the grit and sass like Margo Price, hers is a solid classic country approach. She has made a big leap forward from her debut, especially in her songwriting. Given her ambitious nature, we can expect her to continue to progress.
– Jim Hynes