Hailing from Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky., Kelsey Waldon paints vibrant vignettes of rural life with songwriting similar to fellow Kentuckian Tyler Childers and her musical hero, John Prine.
With three albums of original tunes already to her name and another, No Regular Dog, coming on Aug. 12 via Prine’s Oh Boy Records, Waldon has accumulated a vast catalog of well known hits and undercover gems. Her songs cover everything from her Western Kentucky upbringing to working as a bartender upon her moving to Nashville, self discovery, the hypocrisy of religion and more.
In 2019, she became the first new signee to Oh Boy Records in 15 years — and for good reason. Let's take a look at our choices for Kelsey Waldon's 10 best songs, so far:
"Black Patch"From: 'White Noise / White Lines' (2019)
Waldon mixes Kentucky’s classic bluegrass sounds with her signature blend of country music on “Black Patch,” a story about the uprising of tobacco farmers at the turn of the 20th century against the American Tobacco Company. The tune features dueling fiddles from Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer as Waldon sings of vigilante groups that roamed around burning tobacco fields and warehouses in spite of the industry’s corporate greed.
"You Can Have It"From: 'I’ve Got a Way' (2016)
Waldon sings of doing what you want in life, despite those around who doubt and want to belittle you, on “You Can Have It.” There’s always going to be people in the world who aim to bring you down by only showing pride when you’re wearing a frown, but according to Waldon, it’s critical to brush it off and remain the bigger person. Instead, simply tell them “you didn't want it anyway” in regards to their unsolicited advice on how to live your life.
"Sunday’s Children"From: 'White Noise / White Lines' (2019)
Waldon speaks hard truths about religion on the equal parts twangy and bluesy “Sunday’s Children.” She explores how the church often promotes hatred and bigotry rather than love, acceptance and inclusion. Waldon goes on to acknowledge that while we all have different belief systems and doctrines we follow, most of us all aspire to “want the same things / We all dream the same dreams / Don't have to be just like you / To understand universal truth.” With her lyrics, she illustrates that our strength isn’t in commonality, but rather in the vibrant patchwork quilt of backgrounds and beliefs that tie us, and our country, together.
"Dirty Old Town"From: 'I’ve Got a Way' (2016)
Featuring the swanky slide guitar of Brett Resnick, “Dirty Old Town” oozes vintage country vibes as Waldon sings of the complex relationship with her hometown of Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky. It's there where she fights off “voices over here, voices over there” while at the same time not wanting to let her memories of home fall to the wayside. Even with such tangled circumstances, Waldon vows to stay strong, singing “But I keep hanging on / I keep hanging on / Ain't no dirty old town / Gonna keep me from hanging on.”
"Anyhow"From: 'White Noise / White Lines' (2019)
Waldon documents her journey of struggle, perseverance and self discovery on “Anyhow,” the lead track off of her Oh Boy Records debut White Noise / White Lines. Her journey to success has been long and is still ongoing, with Waldon juggling school at Belmont University with bartending, retail jobs and pursuing a music career across the past decade living in Nashville. Despite now being able to focus solely on her music — although she still has plenty of unmet goals — Waldon sings “When the fire burns low and the ash starts to glow / And a flame can't kill the sorrow / Maybe ride it out, take the long way around / Don't have to beg, steal or borrow,” describing her intentions to keep her nose to the grindstone until she’s where she wants to be.
"False King"From: 'I’ve Got a Way' (2016)
Waldon calls out artists (and people in general) who lack authenticity and self awareness on “False King.” The emphatic episode from I’ve Got a Way see’s the artist tackle everything from musicians “saying big old words, and he don't know what they mean” to sharing her recipe for success (“I believe in doing it right / Taking your time / Staying true to who are”) before saying that there’s no substitute for success other than being yourself (“You can't place a crown on the head of a clown / And then a'hope he turns out to be a king”).
"White Noise, White Lines"From: 'White Noise / White Lines' (2019)
Waldon continues to open up about some of the struggles along her musical journey on “White Noise, White Lines.” With swampy honky-tonk as the backdrop she touches on the hurdles and distractions — or “white noise” — she’s encountered while traversing the “white line” highways of County Road 1029 and beyond in pursuit of her dreams.
"High in Heels"From: 'The Goldmine' (2014)
The oldest of her recorded songs on this top 10 countdown, Waldon sings of the obstacles for necessities like food and shelter for so many on “High In Heels.” The rocking number explores how, even when doing everything right, you can be one small accident or event away from having your world come crashing down around you. She goes onto describe how oftentimes those on the outside looking in only see the end result of one’s circumstances rather than the oftentimes out of their control happenings that led them there, singing “Do not criticize what you don't know And don't call it hell if you're too afraid to go.”
"All By Myself"From: 'I’ve Got a Way' (2016)
Even with the troubles she’s encountered while trying to find her way as an artist, Waldon wouldn’t have things any other way, something she delves into on “All By Myself.” On the ballad, she recognizes the challenges associated with pursuing art as a career and how it makes many people, herself included, want to “run and hide / They want to run from what scares em deep inside.” She goes on to claim her independence by emphatically stating “That what when you wanted to be you / You needed somebody else / But I can be me all by myself,” showing that, despite the ups and downs, she’s still doing fine on her own.
"Kentucky, 1988"From: 'White Noise / White Lines' (2019)
Waldon embraces her rural, Western Kentucky DNA on “Kentucky, 1988,” a coming -of-age song that looks back on her roots while keeping one eye forward on where she’s headed. The made for radio country confessional features some of, if not her most poetic and vibrant lyrical imagery as she sings of a brown trailer on wheels between walls of knotty pine, a concrete foundation in the middle of a dove-huntin' field, arrowheads in the dirt, the sandy banks of the Ohio River and more before admitting that “No matter how far I get away / There's just some things that will never change / Kentucky, 1988.”