The first full-length collection from Kelsey Waldon (who hails from Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky) blisters with the realities of working-class twentysomething life: Full of lessons in heartbreak and resilience learned in the oppressive glare of small-town gossips and fellow barflies. This is the sort of hard country album where Mama appears as a touchstone of strength and good sense on at least five tracks; Daddy’s either kind of a jerk or – more likely, in Waldon’s gray-shaded world – simply too mired in his own struggles and attitudes to be very available to his offspring. Here in Waldon Country, the up-tempos conjure feet shuffling across dusky barroom floors while the ballads seem written in the woozy afterglow. The singer-songwriter, who pens all tracks solo, shows an equally poetic grasp of young adult yearning and confusion (“I don’t know what I’m doing with my life,” she tosses in almost offhandedly on one track, sounding like Ballard County’s answer to Kacey Musgraves) and hardscrabble existence at the margins (“You’ve never lost if you consider your life fair,” she opines on another). Her sharpest, most emblematic moment is probably “High in Heels” – a song with more strikingly incisive lines than most albums – but there’s really not a bad lyric or performance to be found here. With The Goldmine, Kelsey Waldon announces herself as a leading light in the rising class of young country women.
Recommended if you like: Elizabeth Cook, Ashley Monroe, Iris DeMent
Grade (Pass/Fail only): PASS