Madeleine Kelson has a new album out, While I Was Away. The album was produced by Kelson with engineering by Olivia Painter and assistant engineering by Christian Gonzales. It was mixed by Britton Deuel. Madeline arranged the songs, except the strings, which were arranged by Lydia Luce.
The album opens with “Mark On My Wall,” a shuffly inviting song with a wry twist — “I hope you stop your race to the bottom,” and there’s a lot of struggle with addiction in this, and a wish for something better. “These Days” is a consideration of where we come from, restlessness, asking why. “The Way I Do” is a loving ode to a sweet, easy relationship — “god has never loved a woman the way I do” — and the violin is low and noticeable here.
“Cool Kid” is heartbeat rhythms and again, Kelson’s songwriting is wonderful. “Chicago” is an up tempo number, taking you back to the city and its adventures, and looking back after the move to Nashville.
“Make You Proud” is the glorious anthemic heart of the album. When you leave folks behind to follow your dream, Kelson asks how do they still love you. “Are you still gonna try to save me now? Am I sill gonna make you proud? If I lose the straight and narrow for the long way out, am I still gonna make you proud?”
“Joker” is another achingly beautiful song, a real earworm. “I heard you’re still hanging ’round, you used to wrap me around and around your finger like a marionette string, and I would play the joker, and you would play the queen.” Breathy harmonies vibrate off one another and the story of lies and breakups with betrayal in them, and just a great all around song.
“While I Was Away” starts with “everything gets smaller each time that I look back, I can’t believe I used to have to reach so high to hold your hand,” and again is a beautiful song.
Madeleine Kelson just can’t miss. The songwriting is gut wrenching and the musical arrangement is folksy Americana and delightfully done. This album absolutely belongs on this year’s favorite lists. Put it in your playlist and enjoy.
Musicians on the album are Madeleine Kelson on vocals and piano; Lydia Luce on strings; Neal Johnston on electric guitar; Jonathan Mason on bass; RJ Thornton on drums.
Check out our premiere of Madeleine’s video for “Make You Proud” here: