Only here for a moment, then we’re gone, Kelsey Waldon sings on the title track of White Noise/White Lines. She’s seizing the day sure enough, and the results are a record that twangs and rattles with energy and life.
Waldon recorded the album in 2017, before becoming the first artist in years to sign with John Prine’s Oh Boy record label. The importance of that support from Prine for a young, up and coming woman in the industry cannot be overstated. Stepping up and putting your money behind an artist, helping to get their music heard can transform careers. Of course you need the talent to back up the endorsement and Waldon has it in spades.
There’s something edgy and dark about her voice, especially when compared to some of the other women singing Americana right now. For me that’s one thing which drew me to the record, so don’t be fooled by the pastel colours on the cover into thinking this is a dreamy folky album. Opener Anyhow is almost brittle at times, a song about working yourself to the bone and having to do everything for yourself. Still she concludes, I’d do it anyhow. This no nonsense, tell it like it is attitude permeates across the songs. She doesn’t navel gaze or worry. Be ready to ride out the storm with her.
The aforementioned title track sounds dark, swampy even at times. She sings of traveling, dreaming and the open highway. Being far from home doesn’t bother her when you can listen and enjoy the music and the moment.
Kentucky 1988 starts with her a recorded message from her father, who calls to tell her he heard her on song on the radio. That little personal touch leads into a song about growing up, family and home. She’s proud of who she is, where she’s come from just like the coal miner’s daughter before her. Songs like these tell the real stories of America and isn’t that what the best country music always does?
Lived and Let Go is acoustic but there’s a driving energy to her vocal about the reality of living in America right now. She can’t bear to watch the news and knows we can all get along if we tried a little harder.
Black Patch adds a little fiddle to the mix, and it sounds ferociously good. This one tells the story of death, farming and family. And then we head further into the mountains on the interlude to Run – a little bluegrass before the song starts and slows things down. The guitars sound terrific, and that live band feel adds something immediate to the whole record.
As a songwriter Waldon isn’t afraid to confront difficult topics like the hypocrisy of religion on Sunday’s Children. We don’t have to be just like you to understand universal truth, she sings addressing those who seek to exclude or discriminate against others in the name of faith.
Her respect for the country music genre is clear on Very Old Barton, a great traditional honky tonk song. Waldon’s interpretation of this style of music sounds fresh to me as her voice is just different enough to make the old sound new again.
The album concludes with My Epitaph, an old Ola Belle Reed song, which is a welcome reminder to live your life with love. Waldon honours the music that has come before her, inspired her, and brought her peace.
White Noise/ White Lines is the sound of an artist with something interesting to say. It’s unapologetic, unafraid and unbelievably good.