Tuesday, April 5, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1550: Kelsey Waldon

Life is good of late. I’m working a lot of late hours, but I love my job, and if you’re going to spend a lot of time at the office, it might as well be doing something you love.

It does squeeze music review time, but fear not gentle readers, I have not forsaken my quest. Every CD listened to and reviewed. Here’s the latest.

Disc 1550 is…. The Goldmine

Artist: Kelsey Waldon

Year of Release: 2014

What’s up with the Cover? Kelsey has a drink in a dark bar. She has a look on her face that says while she may or may not find love tonight, but she’s definitely going to find that second drink.

How I Came To Know It: I discovered Waldon through her 2019 release “White Noise/White Lines” and digging backwards. Her earlier two albums were available on Bandcamp, but this one was download-only. I kept checking back and recently it was re-released on CD by Oh Boy records. I ordered both it and 2016’s “I’ve Got a Way” straight away. Bandcamp is a great place to support musicians, although I will say Oh Boy records sends a lot of promotional e-mail.

How It Stacks Up: I have three Kelsey Waldon albums, which you will already know if you’ve been paying attention. I like them all a lot, and while this is the first one to get reviewed, I’m feeling optimistic. I’m going to rank it #1. If I change my mind later, I’ll be sure to come clean.

Ratings: 4 stars

“The Goldmine” is a record steeped in brash and seedy Nashville bars, and the quiet desperation of the people you’ll rub shoulders with on Honky Tonk Row on a crowded Saturday night. It is as country as it comes, and as raw as a sunburn.

A lot of albums this country can end up being caricatures of themselves, with whiskey, women and broken hearts scattered through the lyrics like they were staged there for a photo shoot. Not so with Kelsey Waldon at the helm. Her raspy tone and southern twang rise from a deep core of honesty, peeling out to do what country does best; tell a story.

Town Clown” starts the album off, and with its pedal steel and laid back mosey, it quickly establishes you are going to get an old seventies style country drawl that would make Loretta Lynn or Tammy Wynette proud. “Town Clown” is so traditional it is no surprise the actions of infidelity are witnessed on Lower Broadway in Nashville. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know it has probably seen its fair share. Waldon sings it like our narrator isn’t so much sad as a mix of angry and disappointed.

While the lyrics on “Goldmine” are not poetically intricate, they are perfectly placed to cut you to the core. These lines from the title track are a good example of what makes the record so simple and perfect:

“And mama don’t want me to fail
Mama don’t want me to end up in jail
Mama don’t want me to turn out like you
It turns out sometimes I do…”

Nothing fancy, yet confessional and speaking up for all those people who try to cleave to their better natures, but sometimes falling short.

One of my favourite songs of hard living is “High in Heels” a song about poverty that showcases that what may look like bad choices are often forged in a crucible of poverty:

“We waited on the job, but it took too long
Brother got in trouble, now the money’s all gone
Now momma’s sick and I sling bottles at the mule
And people still ask me why I didn’t go to school.”

Bonus points for “twang rhyme” which is when words that don’t usually rhyme do so through the power of accent – in this case “high in heels/high on pills.”

The guitar work (regular and pedal steel) is excellent on this record, but the star is Waldon’s voice. She has a tone that is built to explore life’s harder edges, and that’s exactly what the stories on this record do. But for all that heartache, Waldon’s characters have an endurance to them that gives every song an understated nobility. To get there, she digs deep, and even better, she takes you down with her on the journey.

Best tracks: Town Clown, The Goldmine, Big Black Limousine, High in Heels, Me and You Again, Getting There

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