On her new album No Regular Dog, singer/songwriter/guitarist Kelsey Waldon shares a gritty and glorious portrait of living in devotion to your deepest dreams: the brutal self-doubt and unending sacrifice, hard-won wisdom and sudden moments of unimaginable transcendence. Revealing her supreme gift for spinning harsh truths into songs that soothe and brighten the soul, the Kentucky-bred artist ultimately makes an unassailable case for boldly following your heart—a sentiment perfectly encapsulated in No Regular Dog’s raw and radiant title track.
“I wrote ‘No Regular Dog’ at a time when I was gone so much and working so hard and starting to wonder if I had the staying power to keep it going,” says Waldon, who now lives in Ashland City, Tennessee. “After putting in my time in the van on the road, after all the blood, sweat, and tears and the crying in parking lots, I’d finally gotten to where I wanted—but it was also a moment when I really started questioning myself. In the end I came around to answer my own question and realize that, yes, I can do this. I won’t be put down so easy. I am no regular dog.”
Waldon’s fourth full-length and the follow-up to 2019’s White Noise/ White Lines—her debut release for John Prine’s Oh Boy Records—No Regular Dog came to life over the course of many charmed and freewheeling sessions at Dave’s Room Studio in Los Angeles, with production from kindred spirit Shooter Jennings (Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker). “I’d never recorded an album anywhere but Nashville or back home, and it felt good to get outside my bubble,” Waldon says. “We were able to hunker down and work till late into night, doing what we could to catch lightning in a bottle.”
In a departure from the more guitar-heavy approach of its predecessor (a critically lauded album that landed on NPR Music’s Best of 2019 list), No Regular Dog unfolds in a lush yet understated sound that lets the singular character of Waldon’s songwriting and voice shine through each track. Featuring her longtime band members, Brett Resnick (pedal steel), Alec Newnam (bass), and Nate Felty (drums), along with musicians like famed guitarist/dobro player Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams, Keith Richards), the album also illuminates the immense depth of her musicality, mining inspiration from such eclectic sources as mid-century bluegrass, ’60s soul, and ’70s country-rock. “Everything’s in there, all the music I’ve ever known and loved,” says Waldon. “I wanted to show my whole color scheme and create something that’s less of a honky-tonk thing and more like a big, beautiful picture of everything I see in country music.”
After opening on the luminous strings and pedal steel of its title track—in which Waldon self-identifies as a “prisoner of my mental cages, my own worst enemy”—No Regular Dog kicks into a much punchier mood on the brightly rambling “Sweet Little Girl.” “It’s about a girl who’s lost her way and now she’s trying to find it,” says Waldon. “I was inspired by real-life incidents, like all the thoughts that go through your head when you’re dealing with addiction and feeling like you’ve got this rage inside that you don’t know what to do with.”