Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines
As the old saying goes, “Timing is everything.” I’d say Kelsey Waldon’s timing is just right. The calendar, in which persistence, hard work, and fate have followed, is what has led Waldon to where she is today. She is on a perpetual trajectory upward in her music career and this album is her apex, thus far. The Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky native released her third full-length album on October 4th; her first release with Oh Boy Records. Her previous two albums have garnered critical acclaim and the third, White Noise/White Lines, is no exception. The newest album is not quite like the others, however. What sets this one apart is the intimacy that has been woven into the fabric of not only the lyrics, but the track list itself.
Waldon has been writing songs and playing guitar from a young age. She initially started her musical path with the piano, but then picked up the guitar at the age of 12. Her mother was very supportive of her songwriting – purchasing a 10-track recorder so Kelsey could record her songs. Throughout her teens, Kelsey honed her craft by performing in church and at county fairs. She eventually moved to Nashville to pursue her music dreams. After many ups and downs, changes and trials, she eventually put together a band and started touring almost constantly. The album title, White Noise/White Lines, is a descriptor for the recent years of Kelsey’s career. Battling through the white noise can be distracting when trying to navigate the struggles and triumphs of building a music career. The white lines of the highway are an omnipresent sight for a traveling musician, so it is a fitting title for an album that is depicted in such personal themes.
The first track and first single release, “Anyhow,” from the White Noise/White Lines album is a grab-your-attention, matter-of-fact tune about self-sufficiency and perseverance. I think it’s the perfect song to set the stage and let you know what a diligent person Kelsey Waldon is. The subject matter of the lyrics describes an attitude of forging ahead in the face of adversity with the song set to an upbeat tempo with an edgy pedal steel. “Even if you didn't know how to make the air move/ You're gonna make that wind blow somehow/ Even if the world crumbles at your feet/ You're gonna hold up that earth somehow/ And you know that now/ You do it anyhow.” The video to the single, which featured friends and bandmates raising hell in an old, under-construction church, was released in early July.
The title track, “White Noise/White Lines,” was written by Waldon in the summer of 2017 after she had returned home for a visit. Several things happened during her trip home to inspire her to pen that song. The song has a groovy, dirty blues tone to it. For this particular song she drew inspiration from the solar eclipse she had just witnessed, her new found love, and meeting members of a Chickasaw tribe who were staying at her father’s hunting lodge. During this visit, she had an epiphany that everything would be alright and thus, “White Noise/White Lines” was born.
Some of the most personal nuances of the album are nestled in the breaks between a couple of the tracks. The conclusion of the song “White Noise/White Lines” includes a chant by members of the Chickasaw Tribe of Ada, Oklahoma. Kelsey captured this on her cell phone while they were staying at her father’s hunting lodge and was granted permission to use it on the album. Before going into the biographical third track, “Kentucky 1988,” we hear a heartwarming recording of a voicemail Kelsey’s father left her after he heard one of her songs on the radio. Later in the album, is the “Run” interlude, which is an 18 second sample of her friends picking the Bluegrass standard, “Run Rabbit Run.” This was recorded during a “picking party” held in honor of her birthday. Shining a spotlight on Bluegrass music for the new album was important to Waldon, as it has been a staple throughout her life.
In a nod to her West Kentucky roots, Waldon pens the song “Black Patch.” The storied song recalls the uprising of Kentucky tobacco farmers in the early 1900s against the monopolistic American Tobacco Company. It is certainly one of the catchier tunes with the heavy string section (Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer on twin fiddles) lending to the strife that was occurring during that period in history. Waldon sings of the Night Riders whom led the vigilante group to a violent and devastating fight – burning tobacco warehouses and fields in their opposition of the corporation’s maltreatment.
The song that stands out the most to me is “Sunday’s Children.” Waldon strikes a nerve in her delivery of lyrics that question not only the state of unrest in society today, but why religion promotes hate and exclusion. Having a long-time internal struggle of my own in regards to my religion, this song really hit home for me. The bottom line is that everyone deserves to be loved and live a life of happiness and contentment. With a bit of an R&B/soul tone, heavy bass lines, and Jake Sherman on the Wurlitzer, Waldon sings, “Sunday's children are bein' lied to/ Has anybody told you// We all want the same things/ We all dream the same dreams/ Don't have to be just like you/ To understand universal truth.”
Waldon concludes the album with a beautiful cover of, Appalachian folk singer, Ola Belle Reed’s “My Epitaph.” The song provided Waldon a special comfort on a recent tour that took her through Montana, so she felt compelled to include it on the album, even though she had not initially intended to incorporate any cover songs. Waldon took care in choosing the tracks that make up the album. She wanted to display the songs inspired by her song-writing heroes as well as the people close to her.
In May of this year, Kelsey Waldon, was signed to her songwriting hero, John Prine’s label, Oh Boy Records. He announced the addition of Waldon to his label on the Grand Ole Opry stage prior to asking Kelsey to join him to sing a couple of his songs, “Unwed Fathers” and “Paradise.” The relationship that Waldon has built with Prine and the label goes back a few years when Waldon met Prine’s wife, Fiona, at a tribute show. She, in turn, met and developed a relationship with the rest of the Oh Boy Records team. When I spoke to Kelsey in August at the Railbird Music Festival, she expressed how much it meant to her to have someone like John Prine supporting and endorsing her music. She is very aware of and grateful for the value the broadened audience base the label will attract to her music. In the recent years since they’ve met, the bond between Waldon and Prine has been forged by duets on stage and in studio. My hope is that her lyrical prowess and true to her country roots approach to music will inspire many other female artists and garner a legion of new fans.
Full Railbird Festival Interview: https://bit.ly/357QLol
In a departure of how she recorded her previous albums, Kelsey Waldon enlisted her touring band of Alec Newnam on bass, Mike Kahlil on guitar, Brett Resnick on pedal steel, and Nate Felty on drums to record the album live. With the album being a more personal effort, she wanted it to have the feel of listening to a live performance. I have seen her live shows multiple times this year, and I can attest that she has accomplished this goal alongside co-producer, Dan Knobler. Waldon has several upcoming dates in which she will join John Prine on tour as well as headlining her own tour in support of White Noise/White Lines. Oh Boy Records has put together some really great merch bundles that even include a limited edition, signed 7” vinyl of duets from Prine and Waldon. You can snag that merch here: www.ohboy.com/kelsey-waldon. For tour dates and other information, visit: www.kelseywaldon.com and www.ohboy.com/
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