Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines

Kelsey Waldon
White Noise/White Lines
(Oh Boy)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Kentucky born and bred country/roots singer-songwriter Waldon has an exciting new label home on her third set. She not only receives enthusiastic thumbs up from no lesser songwriting icon than John Prine, but he also signed her to his Oh Boy label, and she is opening dates on his upcoming tour. No matter how talented an artist is—and Waldon is plenty gifted—it’s hard to overstate how important the support of an icon as respected as Prine is to an up and coming musician.

Waldon responds with her finest, most personal and diverse work yet, one that pushes boundaries yet remains firmly ensconced in the roots folk/ country genre she calls home. From the honky-tonking of the retro, binge-drinking concept of “Very Old Barton,” where she sings, “My life is a song, my mind’s a picture show / You are the real thing when you are alone,” to the slower, swampy drama of the title track, which revels in being alive by repeating “We’re only here for a moment then we’re gone,” Waldon charms with twangy vocals and earthy lyrics. She samples her father on her voicemail for the intro to “Kentucky, 1988,” a story about her childhood where she sings, “This is my DNA, no matter how far I get away.” 

Perhaps not coincidentally, that is followed with “Lived And Let Go,” the disc’s starkest song. Waldon sticks to just acoustic guitar on the raw, subtly defiant plea for togetherness in these divisive times. She deals with a lousy ex on the introspective “Run Away” (“Don’t get lost in your mind, you’re only wasting our time”) and explains that she’s meant for the itinerant life of a musician in the propulsive, pedal steel heavy folk-rocking opener “Anyhow.”

But the funky bass riff that starts, ramps up and runs through “Sunday’s Children,” a subtle dig on the current administration with the words “Tear down the walls we build,” shows how receptive Waldon is to expanding her country boundaries without abandoning her organic, roots-based approach. Co-producer Dan Knobler’s clean mix and Waldon’s tight four-piece backing unit help bring this music alive. 

Hopefully the Prine connection will provide the necessary visibility to move Waldon to the next level. With the impressive White Noise/White Lines, she proves her talent is worthy of his, and our, admiration.