Kelsea Ballerini surprised fans this week when she dropped the six-track EP and short film, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat. Simultaneously raw and glossy, it’s an honest look at the demise of her marriage to singer Morgan Evans, and another smart move demonstrating her evolution as a songwriter and purveyor of her own brand.
She’s candid from the start. “I think that this is when it’s over for me” she sings on opener Mountain With A View, responding to Evans’ challenge “how long has it been over for you?” on his own track that accounts their breakup.
'Just Married' juxtaposes delicate bridal strings with lyrics like “I’m too mad to fight / So I stare and cry / At the picture of you and me wearing white”. It’s almost unheard for a mainstream country singer to use the ‘s-word’; rather than using a metaphor that’s as laboured as the saddle it usually has its subject riding, Kelsea is truthful about the distance that grew in the relationship and its accompanying “make-up-for-time sex”. It works: the track is undoubtedly the project’s highlight.
Comparisons to Taylor Swift are often overdone, but if you close your eyes whilst listening to 'Blindsided' it’s hard to deny the similarities to post-country Taylor, particularly on that bridge. "Rolling Up The Welcome Mat", is a more intriguing (though less radio-friendly) title than the song the lyric ends up on, 'Penthouse'. She’s forgiven as soon as she delivers the delicious burn of “It stings rolling up the welcome mat / Knowing you got half”. It’s an interesting nod to divorce, particularly in the context of Kelsea having a notably more lucrative career than Evans.
There was always something golden and shiny about Evans and Ballerini, something which Kelsea herself acknowledges when she sings “I guess wrong can look alright / When you’re playing in a penthouse baby”. So, as lush a production as this album is, Kelsea makes the astute choice in keeping the raw and untouched final track, Leave Me Again, limited to shaky and fried vocals, accompanied only by a simple acoustic guitar.
Rolling Up The Welcome Mat is a self-empowered triumph; let’s hope this invitation into a more stripped-back version of Kelsea’s music isn’t rolled up with it.
Kelsea Ballerini's 2023 EP, Rolling Up The Welcome Mat is out now via Black River Entertainment.
For more Kelsea Ballerini, see below: