By Soda Canter
With No Regular Dog, Waldon not only eviscerates any established understanding of who she is as an artist, but more importantly as a woman.
On her Oh Boy Records debut White Noise / White Lines, Kelsey Waldon could comfortably expand her creative reach and stretch her songwriting skills with the support of an actual label. To no surprise, due to her sheer dedication, the effort designated her as a rising talent and an authentic voice in the genre, where many critics cited her story to be utterly relatable.
Yet with No Regular Dog, Waldon practically eviscerates any established understanding of who she is as an artist but more importantly as a woman. Here, the Kentucky native digs deeper - almost with full abandon - as she goes through the stages of grief. Not just for the loss of her legendary musical mentor John Prine, but the struggles in coming to terms with the pitfalls of earned success.
With this record, she’s actively wrestling with who she’s been, who she is, and who she wants to be. Shooter Jennings' tender 70s country-rock production provides a safe haven for Waldon to guide us through her journey of self-discovery and healing. Yet be assured, No Regular Dog is not a standard life on the road reflection; it’s a profoundly raw confession from an artist who finds tremendous power in understanding her shadows as well as her light.
Waldon doesn’t exactly ease the listener into the conversation either. Her much-lauded twang practically growls through the title track; this “wolf on the kill’ is savage and holds no thought back. especially when confronting truths about herself.
Her voice is conflicted and powerfully vulnerable in ways that she hasn’t explored before. The ironic, rock-leaning ‘Sweet Little Girl’ is a fine lead-in to the teachable ‘Tall and Mighty’, where Waldon shares her thoughts about women and vulnerability through lived experience.
The experimental structure of ‘You Can’t Ever Tell’ reads almost like a transcript from a personal conversation with her father, which only works due to Waldon’s bare-knuckle conviction. ‘Season’s Ending’ is a gorgeous acceptance of loss with expertly crafted lines like ‘ain’t it just like you to bloom and be gone’, the sort of quip which would have made Prine beam.
The tone of the second half is lighter as Waldon processes such grief, finding clarity and gratefulness in the sheer act of love. She cathartically laments following in familial footsteps with the epic ‘History Repeats Itself’, while the album standout ‘Peace Alone’ and the tortured acceptance of ‘Progress Again’ make her hard-learned life lessons feel practically unforgettable.
With No Regular Dog, Waldon has established her purpose as an artist with relentless truth. Here she delivers her signature album; one that will be revisited for years to come.
9.0 / 10.
Kelsey Waldon's 2022 album, No Regular Dog, is out August 12th via Oh Boy Records. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below:
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