Kelsey Waldon
Photo: Alysse Gafkjen / Courtesy of Sacks& Co.

Kelsey Waldon Is ‘No Regular Dog’ But a Wild Wolf on the Prowl

Country music’s Kelsey Waldon may be from the sticks, but she shows how rural life is far more sophisticated than it seems in No Regular Dog.

No Regular Dog
Kelsey Waldon
Oh Boy Records
12 August 2022

Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky’s best-known native, is back with a new album that reveals her feral personality. Kelsey Waldon‘s No Regular Dog paints a portrait of the artist as a young canine, and this pooch bites. Waldon proclaims herself “a wolf on the kill” rather than a domesticated pet. She may be from the sticks, but rural life is more sophisticated than it seems. Waldon tracks drug addiction, political corruption, personal disappointments, and more of the same troubles one finds in the bigger cities on a smaller scale. This metaphorical hound knows the world is full of good intentions gone bad. Or, as Waldon sings, sometimes even “Sweet Little Girl[s]” want to kill themselves and receding flood waters can bring out the snakes.

Waldon gets personal here. Some songs are openly autobiographical and confessional as she wonders what to do with her life. The singer/guitarist works as a modern-day troubadour and questions whether her profession is worth the trouble. The fact that this music exists proves the answer she reluctantly gives. “Nothin’ worth doing don’t come without a price,” she sings. The highs one gets when things are positive are worth the negatives. “Now everything’s not as bad as it seems / Most of my friends are on amphetamines,” she croons on “Tall and Mighty”. Things could be worse.

Seasons may end, but history repeats, Waldon warns. Because she has such a down-home drawl, Waldon sounds like some sort of backwoods witch. That’s why her references to present woes come as somewhat of a shock. What at first comes off as a comforting voice from the past becomes a wake-up call. She observes herself and the world she lives in and finds them both wanting. Her one love song, “Simple As Love”, rings out falsely from among the other album tracks. The flat tone of her voice lacks passion as Waldon heralds finding a mate. Comparing her desire to a junkie with an itch suggests things are not as simple as she declares. There’s a latent subtext behind the spider web called love.

Shooter Jennings produced No Regular Dog and put Waldon smack dab in the forefront of different accompaniments that range from old-time country to more avant-garde sound effects. Keeping the artist in front turns the keyboards, synths, and stringed instruments into a cacophony of musical background noises. Waldon penned all the tracks. Her fellow musicians include Jennings (piano, organ, synths, Wurlitzer, Rhodes), Aubrey Richmond (violin/fiddle, strings), Brett Resnick (pedal steel), Adam Duran (electric guitar), Alec Newnam (electric bass), Nate Felty (drums, percussion), Rob McNelly (sitar), Doug Pettibone (Nashville acoustic guitar, Dobro, mandolin), Herb Pederson (banjo), Kristen Rogers (background vocals), Kyshona Armstrong (background vocals), Maureen Murphy (background vocals) and Nickie Conley (background vocals).

Waldon begins No Regular Dog with the title song about her life as a wild dog, but she ends it with a short (less than two minutes) instrumental called “Dog”. The track is tame by comparison to the initial cut. There are no loud instruments, fancy fretwork, or fast-paced solos on the final track. Waldon is no longer the untamed creature that howls. While Waldon may be better off in this calm state, the best parts of No Regular Dog occur when she’s singing and playing about the more turbulent aspects of life.

RATING 7 / 10