The Gold Mine
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Barlow, Kentucky by way of Nashville singer Kelsey Waldon doesn’t want to be considered a throwback artist, but it’s tough to listen to her debut full length release and not realize that her record collection is probably filled with more 70’s titles than 00’s ones. Her high- pitched voice exudes the natural twang of Lynn Anderson, Tammy Wynette and even Dolly Parton’s nasal Tennessee Mountain Home style. Opening with the very retro “Town Clown” driven by classic pedal steel and a chorus that could have been nicked from an obscure George Jones side, Waldon captures an earlier vibe without slavishly copying it.
Credit bassist/producer Michael Rinne for keeping the sound stripped down, allowing these predominantly sorrowful, but not despondent, songs to take flight. There are plenty of no-future, small town stories on the order of “High in Heels” (the rest of the chorus is “high on pills”) where the lyric of “everybody’s got their own kind of suicide” is just one indication that life in the backwoods isn’t all it’s often cracked up to be. The mournful fiddle in “Quicksand” is all you need for the waltz time ballad to convey the dread of a dead end miner’s existence where the prospect of leaving that life is almost worse than living it. The jittery rockabilly steel guitar of “One Time Again” masks the song’s lyrical anger at a cheating boyfriend with an upbeat country arrangement perfect for the dance floor. And the title track is a barroom weeper where Waldon dismisses the allure of money to replace happiness.
The traditions of honest country never grow stale, just listen to Hank Williams Sr. for proof. That makes Kelsey Waldon’s new music, filled with easy to reference ties to the past, feel as fresh yet lived in and authentic as that of any of the greats of the genre who have clearly inspired her.