“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 to release her new EP, They’ll Never Keep Us Down, a collection of timeless yet timely cover songs. Today, 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.” Watch the lyric video here.
The B-side of “Mississippi Goddam”—also released today—is the EP’s title track, Hazel Dickens’ “They’ll Never Keep Us Down”; 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.” Hear both “They’ll Never Keep Us Down” and “Mississippi Goddam” now right here.
Fans can pre-order and pre-save They’ll Never Keep Us Down at this link ahead of its November 20th release. Additionally, Waldon will be releasing two 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, and the blue vinyl will benefit Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, who represent coal miners and their families on issues of black lung and mine safety. Both vinyl editions can be pre-ordered here.
“This song [Mississippi Goddam], which showcases racial injustice as well as the enduring fight and fear that the Black community has had to endure in this country for centuries, still rings true decades later,” says Waldon. “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; 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.” They all share a strong common thread; accepting the need for change and what it means to push for it. Waldon’s view on the matter is cut and dry, with no room for interpretation; a call to conversation with her fellow southerners who may not yet think along the same lines. “This is about listening to someone else's perspective,” says Waldon. 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.
They’ll Never Keep Us Down Tracklisting:
1. The Law Is For Protection Of The People
3. Mississippi Goddam feat. Adia Victoria & Kyshona Armstrong
4. Sam Stone
5. They’ll Never Keep Us Down
6. With God On Our Side
7. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free feat. Devon Gilfillian