Kelsey Waldon spelled out her origin story in the personal song “Kentucky, 1988,” one of many high points on her latest album, White Noise/White Lines. The songwriter returns to her home state, and her tiny town of Monkey’s Eyebrow, for a new video for the track, retracing the steps she took there as a child.
“Sun blisters on your skin/an arrowhead in the dirt/the Ohio River rolls on banks of sand/and if it don’t flood this year, we’ll have crops again,” Waldon sings in the imagery-rich lyrics. In the video, directed by Joshua Britt and Neilson Hubbard, she’s back on that flood plain, a freshly discovered arrowhead, exposed in the turned-over soil, in the palm of her hand.
“Kentucky, 1988,” which Rolling Stone named the best country song of 2019, is Waldon’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” a ballad that isn’t afraid to recall early hardships and imperfect parents. “They are just as troubled and beautiful as the rest of us. I wouldn’t be the way I am now without them, even with the terrible things,” she told Rolling Stone last year. “I have a perspective now, and it takes a really mature person to have forgiveness, to say you love somebody even if they don’t say they are sorry. For better or worse, this is my stock.”
Waldon released White Noise/White Lines on John Prine’s Oh Boy Records — as the first artist to sign to the label in 15 years. She and Prine often shared the stage together and when the songwriter died in April, Waldon remembered him as “the standard, both as a human and a songwriter.” “There will never be another John Prine, but I know myself and many others will do our best to keep the flame burning.”
Waldon is nominated for Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2020 Americana Honors & Awards.