Kelsey Waldon at the Cat’s Cradle, 12/9/22

What becomes the high lonesome sound when it brings together likeminded souls in the same venue? That powerful conundrum played out time and again during Kelsey Waldon’s concert at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room in Carrboro this December evening. Backed by a hot band that featured Libby Weitnauer on fiddle, Muskrat Jones on pedal steel, Junior “King Tut” Tutwiler on guitar, Erik Mendez on bass and Zach Martin on drums, she unreeled song after song that spoke to and about the human condition.

Abby Hamilton, who also hails from Kentucky, opened the show with a sterling solo set.

Then Kelsey and band hit the stage, kicking off their set with the title track to her excellent 2022 No Regular Dog LP. In it, she asserts, “Nothin’ worth doing don’t come without a price/You better saddle up, better hold on tight/It’s gonna be a long ride.” The ride that followed would’ve been a little longer, but she accidentally jumped one of the songs on her setlist, “History Repeats Itself,” and didn’t look back. Instead, she and the band barreled onward, with the 21-set drawn from No Regular Dog, White Noise/White Lines (2019) and I’ve Got a Way (2016), plus “High in Heels” from her 2014 album, The Goldmine. To say that it was 95 minutes of honky-tonk nirvana would be an understatement.

Three years back, we saw Kelsey at another area club, the Local 506, where she fired up her “high-octane sonic concoction” before a sparse crowd. This night, though the odds were high in my head, she topped that performance before a sizable audience. One reason: confidence. After months on the road, the band is tight. And, more importantly, she has the songs. One great song rolled into the next, and…wow, just wow.

I could talk about the intricacies of the set, how she and her band wove the strands of Appalachian, honky tonk, rock and R&B into a colorful tapestry that’s truly American music, but fear I’d subject readers to even more hyperbole than usual.

Here are three highlights:

And here’s the set list in full:

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