Kelsey Waldon is as authentic as Jack Daniels himself. It might be tempting to say she sounds like classic country greats (Kitty Wells, anyone?), but frankly Kelsey Waldon is so good she deserves her own place in the pantheon of great country artists. I don’t know the rationale behind the title The Goldmine, but I find it fascinating that it’s not something about a coal mine or other hard working imagery – yet at the same time the album is itself a reflection of the current age, a veritable gold mine of riches in 21st century America.
From the twang of the first guitars of “Town Clown” it’s obvious you’re in for a treat with this album. “I used to be someone people believed in… but now they just laugh and turn the other way… just when you think you’ve found a friend in this town somebody goes and spreads it around that you’re the town clown.” It’s an anthem for smalltown America. It’s about a woman in denial that her husband’s having an affair and how she feels when she finds out. Betty Draper, you’re on notice.
The title track “The Goldmine” sounds like it’s straight out of Dolly Parton’s discography. It’s about family and life and love. “But a house on a hill ain’t everybody’s dream… all the riches and the treasures ain’t everything… no I don’t want a coal mine, I just want to be alright.” The lyrical delivery on this song is just about as raw and real as it can get. She’s singing about real pain and heartache about two people longing for different dreams. It’s hard, but good.
“High in Heels” might be the sassiest song I’ve heard in 2014. Something about Waldon’s vocal quality on this one reminds me of earlier Jessica Lea Mayfield (that’s a compliment, for sure). “High in heels… high on pills… now who in the hell is gonna pay them bills?” This is not exactly a mainstream America track. It’s pretty hard to believe this one could make it on today’s contemporary country music scene, but it’s got a real gritty message. It’s about poverty, ultimately, and it’s terrifyingly tragic. “Daddy’s gone, Mama tried… everybody’s got their own kind of suicide…”
The following “Not My First Time” is absolutely gorgeous and exceptionally unsettling. It’s written as a classic slowed-down country two step. Instead of singing about a broken relationship, she’s singing a pseudo-confessional commentary that… well, listen carefully. Grab a cold one, if you’re so inclined. It sets the mood on this gem of country track.
For a bit of a toe tapper, “Me and You Again” is a friendly, familiar tune. It’s about being with someone in the down-and-out of life. Waldon has the ability to capture the complexity of human relationships with a simple turn of phrase and a few sweet notes. She’s really in an exceptional class of songwriters making music today. A similarly upbeat track “Best of Everything” has all the trappings of a country classic – steel guitar, great lead vocal, old-school backing vocals, and – of course – lamenting a life of trying to avoid going to rehab. Again Waldon expertly handles deeply human issues with flippancy and lighthearted candor all-too-familiar to country music fans. It’s another great song.
Perhaps the best track on the album is “One Time Again.” It’s a swinger and a good one at that. It reminds me of the great western band the Mavericks. Ultimately Waldon’s sentiment in this track is that she can’t forget a cheating man “one time again.” She’s a tough girl willing to put in the work for a relationship, but she keeps having to reiterate to her man to stop drinking. It’s truly tragicomic in a way that only great country western music can do. Somewhere Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams are smiling about this young lady.
Honestly, this is one of the best start-to-finish country records I’ve heard in a long time. In terms of capturing the heart of a genre, Kelsey Waldon is the personal embodiment of country music. I’m hoping some day I can hear her golden voice in person. She’s doing the kind of songwriting that speaks for a whole “people.” Her stories wrapped up in song are a gift for the rest of us, here to appreciate and connect with the deep personal sentiments that make up her life experience. Fans of classic country music must own this album and folks who like hearing genuine singer songwriters should give her a try. Kelsey Waldon is genuine, and that’s about all we can ask of a true country singer.