Classic country rock sounds with hard hitting lyrics along with some love for the late John Prine.
Kentucky raised Kelsey Waldon’s second album on Oh Boy Records, the label set up by her late mentor John Prine, finds her channelling a fine retro country rock sound, a bit like Loretta Lynn fronting Barefoot Jerry, with some outlaw country tug thrown in for good measure. The playing and the song arrangements are quite superb and, perhaps in part due to the album being recorded in California, home of cosmic country, there’s more than a whiff of Burritos’ like wizardry on show. A fine example is found on the creamy lament of ‘You Can’t Ever Tell’ where the pedal steel worms its way throughout the song before being afforded a short and quirky solo slot.
While these excellent band renditions (produced by Shooter Jennings) are beguiling from start to finish, it’s Waldon who commands attention throughout. Her voice has that southern inflection which draws the listener in – an authenticity which some singers fail to capture – and she is in great form here. While her vocals slip so easily into the grooves of the songs as on the pulsating, bass driven ‘Sweet Little Girl’ or the rustic ‘Simple As Love’, her lyrics are much more hardscrabble and introspective than one might expect. The opening title song, an atmospheric number not a million miles removed from Bobby Gentry’s ‘Delta Sweete’ sound, finds Waldon singing that she’s “A prisoner of my mental cages, my own worst enemy…” while on ‘Tall And Mighty’ she seems to question her own career, wondering how she got to where she is, “Feeling kind of lucky and also damn strange, been all round the world for some small piece of change, singing my heart out in some shitty bar…whoever thought that I’d take it this far.” Meanwhile she adds that many of her peers from back in the days are now hooked on methamphetamines.
She’s not afraid to delve into the grimier aspects of life as on the aforementioned ‘Sweet Little Girl’ which tells of a young country girl dazzled by city lights and numbed by booze while the swampy ‘History Repeats Itself’ is told from the perspective of a twin who, on the run from the law, compares his predicament to that of his law abiding sibling. Going deep into the nitty gritty of 70’s country rock, ‘Peace Alone (Reap What You Sow)’ is a backwater cousin to Neil Young’s ‘Love Is A Rose’ while the ghost of John Prine hovers over the excellent back porch prayer that is ‘Backwater Blues’. With the album dedicated to Prine and with ‘Season’s Ending’ a fine tribute to him, Waldon repays his faith in her sevenfold with this excellent album.
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