“Kelsey Waldon—who recently signed with John Prine's label Oh Boy Records, hails from Kentucky and grew up Southern Baptist—wrote the song after watching many people, influenced by dangerous religious rhetoric, disown family members for coming out. "Essentially, that tune was inspired by how I felt about people using religion and God in the name of hate," Waldon told me. "I grew up in the Southern Baptist church, and I was really discouraged to hear so many people instill fear in the hearts of people, that just because somebody isn't like them, they would be afraid of this person."
John Prine founded Oh Boy! in 1981, fed up by the machinations of the commercial music business and determined to go his own way. Oh Boy! has rarely signed other artists, and Waldon is its first signing in 15 years. Shortly after the deal was done, Waldon and Prine went into Nashville’s Studio G to celebrate, and they recorded two songs together: a remake of a Prine classic, “Paradise,” and this song, “Kentucky Means Paradise.” The latter was written by the legendary guitarist Merle Travis, who grew up in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, the setting of Prine’s “Paradise.”
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The album’s lead single, “Anyhow,” is a stubborn anthem of self-reliance featuring a hardscrabble honky-tonk guitar line. “The song is about self-awareness, trusting the process, and embracing yourself and who you are — even if it doesn’t fit the mold,” Waldon said in a recent interview withGarden & Gun. “In a way, it’s also about not giving up.”
The songwriting legend took the stage Saturday evening at That Tent, delivering a retrospective of his beloved hits (“Angel From Montgomery,” “Spanish Pipedream,” “Hello in There,” the new instant classic “When I Get to Heaven”) that are at the heart of country and folk music. Prine’s raspy voice and trademark grin radiated a sense that everything is going to be OK, even in dark and confusing times — a hallmark of a troubadour at the top of his game. Americana superstar Brandi Carlile made a surprise appearance for a duet of “Summer’s End,” and earlier in the set, rising country singer Kelsey Waldon (who recently signed to Prine’s Oh Boy Records) joined him for a spirited take on “In Spite of Ourselves.”
Kelsey Waldon, a daughter of the wooded bottomlands of Monkey's Eyebrow, stood center stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday night as legendary songwriter John Prine welcomed her to his label, Oh Boy Records.
While it was her third time playing the famed country music institution, the label signing is a highlight of Waldon's career so far.
"I feel really, really great. I'm not sure it's all totally sunk in yet, honestly," she told The Sun after the performance. "I've been waiting for a while to even share this news. I honestly can't even believe it really."