Kelsey Waldon Debuts on John Prine’s Oh Boy Label With Rugged & Rural ‘White Noise/White Lines’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Kelsey Waldon leverages the success of her prior acclaimed album I’ve Got a Way to this new, even more, personal effort, White Noise/White Lines, her debut and the first artist signing for John Prine’s Oh Boy label in fifteen years. Waldon, of course, hails from one of this country’s most uniquely named towns, Monkey’s Eyebrow, KY. Her music reflects her rural roots and the album captures the rugged sound of her four-piece road band, ably supporting her intimate and personal songs. Waldon has a sharp combination of songwriting craft and requisite twang delivery. A few decades ago, she’d have been piling up significant airtime on country radio but these days you’re more apt to find her on Americana stations. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to have someone remind us what traditional country, albeit with a few contemporary flourishes, sounds like.

The album was co-produced by Waldon and Dan Knobler, opening with the confident anthem, released as a single and video, “Anyhow.” This is Waldon’s song of fighting through setbacks. As she says in her notes, “Discover your true self and do it on purpose, then somehow everything else seems to work out. My great grandmother used to tell me to “plow your own row.” That’s a good example not only of Waldon’s determination but her rooted local and familial values too. 

The title track captures her experiencing a solar eclipse and meeting members of the Chickasaw nation of Ada, OK at her father’s hunting camp.  She recorded the Chickasaw Tribe chant on her cell phone and brings it in toward the end of the song. It’s one of many unique personal touches that she adds to the album.  She adds a voicemail recording of her dad’s who called to tell her that he heard her on the radio in what she calls her “Coal Miner’s Daughter” story tune “Kentucky, 1988.” She has a snippet of her friends playing the bluegrass classic “Run Rabbit Run” into the mix. She feels these are human and untainted, thereby adding to the feel and authenticity of her artistry.

As mentioned, this is a pure country sound but Waldon’s scope is wider than just the traditional sound. Her influences range from The Band to The Meters to Ann Peebles and Bill Withers in addition to those like Ralph Stanley and Hazel Dickens. She uses mostly basic instrumentation of electric guitar (Mike Khalil) pedal steel (Brett Resnick), drums (Nate Felty) and bass (Alec Newman) while adding the twin fiddles of Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer on “Black Patch” and Jake Sherman’s Wurlitzer on “Sunday’s Children.”

Waldon’s world view is best expressed in “Live and Let Go,” where she urges us to put aside our differences to make the earth a better place, as well as in “Sunday’s Children,” where she cries out against hate, especially when using God or religion to promote it. A clear standout and deeply personal track in “Black Patch.” It’s a form of tobacco that’s also known as black fire, as it is wood smoked and fire-cured after harvesting, specifically in Western Kentucky. Here is an informative excerpt from her notes – “1904-1909 the American Tobacco trust comes to West KY and while black Patch was reigning, big business caused loads of economic pressure for local farmers and eliminated competition, manipulated prices, and undermined local control. ‘Night Riders” led raids on tobacco warehouses, fields, etc. – setting them on fire – somehow trying to showcase the strength of local farmers. They chose to do this until the ATC paid higher prices. It was called the Black Patch ware of Western Kentucky. I always loved the vivid imagery in this also the idea of people standing up for their crop, their land, and what they got to work with. Working tobacco runs generational in my family and stripping it and planting it was one of my first jobs growing up. You could say this is my ode to local and family farms all over the world.”

Waldon chooses to close with a song from pioneer mountain singer Ola Belle Reed called “My Epitaph.” This is Waldon’s way of further explaining just what she is all about. She cries out for real values in a world where materialism, competition, greed and jealousy are more paramount. Waldon is genuine and we need more artists like her that not only rail against current culture but do it unpretentiously from a perspective that’s as real as it gets.

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One Response

  1. I can’t stop listening to White Noise White lines. Kesley’s stunning voice, songs and band reverberate inside.

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