Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
o her credit, you won't hear Kelsey Waldon on commercial country radio stations. At least not these days. When you sing with a whole lot of twang, showcase a monster pedal steel player backing you up not to mention another supporting musician who knows her way around a fiddle, that ought to give the listener an indication these Waldon and band play music that just isn't ear candy enough to hit the airwaves.
No matter. In the flesh, Waldon, the pride of Monkeys Eyebrow, Ky. was pure, dyed-in-the-woold country. Kicking the night off with "No Regular Dog," the title track of her release from earlier this year, was proof positive.
Decked out in a cream-colored hat, Waldon sang with a lot of twang in her voice. No wonder the late, great John Prine liked what he heard enough to sign her to his Oh Boy label, which historically has had very few artists and was its first in 15 years. In fact, she played "Paradise," which the two recorded together for "The Kentucky Sessions" from 2019.
Waldon offered all but one song from "No Regular Dog," as well she should have because it showed off the artist at her best.
So did any number of the 18 songs she squeezed into 75 minutes in a show that made you think there are some folks who know their way around what a country song used to sound like.
Waldon's band – Her Hot Band as she called them (not to be confused with Emmylou Harris' band of the same name) is a recent creation. Having decided to mix things up at this point in her career, Waldon's entire band joined her at varying points in 2022, but you wouldn't know that from how well they meshed together.
Waldon smartly gave her band plenty of space to ply their musical talents. That was particularly true of pedal player Brady "Muskrat" Jones, who wrung out a ton of sweet sounds from his pedal. And Libby Weitnauer was also a tour de force on fiddle. Like Jones, she gave the material a lot of musical backbone and muscle when called for. Drummer Zach Martin gave a too much muscle at times.
Waldon sang about authenticity in "False King":
"I believe in doing it right
Taking your time
Staying true to who are
Fight the good fight
Keep those harmonies tight
And maybe tuning your guitar
I'm trying my best to get it off my chest
I know some of y'all know what I mean
When I say you can't place a crown on the head of a clown
And then a'hope he turns out to be a king"
There's nary a thing false about Waldon. She may not be on the airwaves, but Waldon does stay true to herself.
Lexington, Ky.-based singer/songwriter Abby Hamilton with a warm solo acoustic gig. Hamilton was far more organic in the flesh than her recordings would indicate. That was evident on her fun sounding, but sweetly delivered "Trailer Park Queen." Hamilton has a sense of humor in her writing as well. Unfortunately, Hamilton, who has a new disc out in March 2023, was limited to but five songs. On the other hand, she made the most of her time on stage.