To decide that classic country music is the way you’re going to make it through life is like choosing the toughest of all paths to climb to the top of a mountain, with steep inclines and sharp drop off’s and all manner of obstacles and wild dangers besetting your course on every side, all while an inviting elevator to the top sits with open doors waiting to spirit you to the same apex you’re shooting for with little to no effort.
In 2016, most would never choose “classic country” as a job description; it’s only something that must be chosen for you by forces out of your control, with no option of wiggling out of your obligation. It’s just too debilitating of a life’s purpose, more than likely leaving you with heartache and disappointment as you try to eek out enough attention for your efforts to justify existence. Yet it can ultimately be incredibly rewarding in ways much richer than financial success.
Kelsey Waldon’s sophomore album I’ve Got A Way is a fiercely-classical, traditional country album through and through, cover to cover, with songs of heartbreak and healthy amounts of steel guitar slathered across the tracks generously, and her undeniable country roots grounded in the curiously-titled hometown of Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky sticking up through the surface like the trip hazard veins of some great oak tree. And that’s most of what you’ll hear about Kelsey and this album. And though this is all true and a material asset to her effort in the minds to classic country’s often lampooned, but fiercely loyal fans, there’s something much more underlying going on in this record that many may miss.
I’ve Got A Way is not just classic country gold delivered in the modern realm, it is an allegorical voyage delivered in mutable, yet intertwined themes that delve deep into the material journey the soul must take when trying to navigate its path through life past all manner of travails, and pitfalls veiled as pots of gold. This album is about the test that life poses to see if one is strong enough to hold onto themselves. A classic country performer is going to know this journey all too well because nothing except the prodding from some diehard fans and an eternal drive inside is going to keep them soldiering forward.
Almost like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel, the songs of I’ve Got A Way can mold themselves to broach all manner of subjects depending on the mood and memories of the listener. It’s part protest album with its opening salvo “Dirty Old Town,” though if you happen to be at odds with wherever your homestead lies, it may not be just about Nashville. “Don’t Hurt The Ones (Who’ve Loved You the Most)” can be about your lover, friends and familial surroundings, or it can be about not turning your back on the fans who helped support your career when nobody else would.
“You Can Have It,” “False King,” and many of the other songs of I’ve Got A Way follow this double, sometimes triple-meaning brilliance, including working in the trials that romantic relationships can throw ones way, and can make you lose sight of your true self. Kelsey Waldon presents a world full of temptations and hurdles, yet with defiant countenance, turns away all adverse attempts to veer her off her course, declaring “I’ve got a way” that’s all my own, and will not be swayed by alluring trifles or manipulators disguised as allies. Sometimes this journey is lonesome, and it’s always difficult. And sometimes what seems like the right course of action doesn’t always reveal itself as the righteous path in the end. But the most important thing in the end is the journey, and the insistence on plodding forward ones own way.
Or as Kelsey Waldon says in the final song:
We’re all just trying to get better
We’re all just trying to do the best that we can
So I just wanted to thank you for the heartbreak
Because it brought me to where I am
1 3/4 Gus Up (8.5/10)
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