“I want to work towards a new southern strategy because my South is a South for all people,” says Nashville recording artist and proud Kentucky native Kelsey Waldon. The next step forward in Waldon’s mission for progress and equality in her beloved homeland is releasing her new EP, They’ll Never Keep Us Down, a collection of timeless yet timely cover songs; from Neil Young’s “Ohio” to Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”—which features Devon Gilfillian—to Waldon’s late friend, mentor, and record label founder John Prine’s “Sam Stone.” The EP’s title track, Hazel Dickens’ “They’ll Never Keep Us Down” is a power-to-the-people traditional bluegrass burner with refrains like “They’ll never shoot that union out of me” and “Your welfare ain’t on the rich man’s mind.” They all share a strong common thread; accepting the need for change and what it means to push for it. “Today in 2020, as we push for progress, sometimes it still feels like we are going backwards.” It’s that backsliding of progress that drove Waldon to revisit this host of powerful songs, all of which can be streamed or purchased right now at this link.
Additionally, Waldon is releasing three different, limited edition, colored vinyl versions of They’ll Never Keep Us Down; proceeds from the red vinyl will benefit Hood to the Holler, a non-profit organization aiming to end racial injustice in Kentucky and beyond. The blue vinyl will benefit Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, who represent coal miners and their families on issues of black lung and mine safety, and the green vinyl will benefit women veterans in the Lexington VA Health Care System. All three vinyl editions can be ordered here.
Singles-wise, JamBase shared Walden’s in-studio performance video of “Sam Stone” on Veteran’s Day and NPR/World Cafe premiered the EP’s first single, “Mississippi Goddam.” With the help of guest vocalists Adia Victoria and Kyshona Armstrong, Waldon tackles this Nina Simone classic with a swirling, angry, country-ish feel, rekindling Simone’s fire from when the song was written after white supremacists killed four young girls in the 1963 bombing of a Black church in Birmingham, Alabama. NPR/World Cafe’s Bruce Warren commented, “There’s an electrical, pulsing change in tempo compared to Simone’s original, yet the cutting message remains the same. With Victoria and Armstrong adding their voices to this version, along with Waldon, makes an already powerful song even stronger.” Overall, They’ll Never Keep Us Down burns bright and hot; a torch in the night for those who’ve not yet seen the light and a friendly beacon for those who are already on their march to achieving justice for all.
On Saturday, November 21st, Waldon and Arlo McKinley will take to the outdoor stage at Nashville’s famed venue, The Basement, as part of Oh Boy Records’ Friendsgiving & Food Drive. Benefitting Second Harvest Food Bank, the socially-distanced outdoor concert has long been sold out, but donations can still be made to Second Harvest in honor of Oh Boy Records at this link.
Waldon recently curated a playlist for part of Oxford American’s annual music issue. Entitled “Women of the Rural Blues,” Waldon’s playlist includes choice cuts from Ola Belle Reed, Hazel Dickens, and many more. “The music on this playlist is what I would consider to be part of the foundation of what we know as ‘country’ music today,” says Waldon. “What is the rural blues, one might ask? It’s the country blues, the mountain blues, the Delta blues, the hillbilly blues...it is country music.” Check out Waldon’s playlist as well as seven others from southern musicians and writers right here.
They’ll Never Keep Us Down Track Listing:
The Law Is For Protection Of The People
Mississippi Goddam feat. Adia Victoria & Kyshona Armstrong
They’ll Never Keep Us Down
With God On Our Side
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free feat. Devon Gilfillian