Kelsey Waldon Teams Up With Isaac Gibson, Amanda Shires & More On Cover Of Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen”

Kelsey Waldon country music
Alysse Gafkjen

This next Kelsey Waldon album can’t come soon enough.

Titled There’s Always A Song, the western Kentucky artist’s forthcoming record won’t be released in its entirety until May 10, but luckily we already have a couple of singles to hold us over. In tandem with the album announcement back in February, Waldon released the strong lead single “Hello Stranger,” a steel-soaked honky-tonker that features fellow Kentucky songstress S.G. Goodman on vocals.

Waldon backed that one up earlier this week with the project’s second single “Uncle Pen,” this time with a feature from prominent country artists and fiddle player Amanda Shires. Originally written and recorded by Bill Monroe around 1950, “Uncle Pen” is a classic bluegrass tune that has withstood the test of time, remaining relevant for over seven decades at this point. Among others, Porter Wagoner recorded the song in 1956, Ricky Skaggs took it to the top spot on the country music charts in 1986, and even Phish has covered the song live more than 200 times over the years.

Now, putting her own spin the tune, Waldon employed the talents of several prominent musicians to bring new life to the tried and true bluegrass classic. In addition to an impressive duel-fiddle attack led by Shires and Libby Weitnauer, Margo Price, S.G. Goodman, 49 Winchester’s Isaac Gibson, and Shires all provide backing vocals as well, and a who’s who of other supporting musicians contribute there talents elsewhere on the track.

Waldon says:

“’Uncle Pen’ is one of my favorites. First of all, I love the fiddle and this is a bluegrass song literally about fiddle tunes and Bill Monroe’s Uncle Pen playing those fiddle tunes…on his fiddle (of course). The fiddle has become an important part of our live show and my sound, and I really wanted to feature my incredible fiddle player, Libby Weitnauer.

The versions I first came to know as a kid were from fellow Kentuckians Bill Monroe and Ricky Skaggs. I then fell in love with the Goose Creek Symphony version of it sometime later on in my life. So, we really took from the Goose Creek version to make this one my own, with a sort of half-time feel and a little psychedelic flair.

We had the band and every guest who collaborated sing on the last chorus to encourage the spirit of joyful community, just like you were at a pickin’ party or a festy jam. I thought of my friend Amanda Shires to double the fiddle part because I’ve always wanted to work with her and we always talk about how much we love the fiddle, and she killed it and added such a breath to it! You can never have too many fiddles.”

The result is another heater that continues to build anticipation for the release of There’s Always A Song and proves why Waldon is one of country music’s best.

Check out her cover of Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen” below:

For reference, give the Ricky Skaggs version a listen as well.

And while we’re at it, here is Waldon’s aforementioned lead single “Hello Stranger.”

On the verge of her sixth record since her 2014 debut Goldmine, it’s clear Waldon has something special going on here, and there’s no better way to experience her spectacular music than to catch her live.

She’s got a handful of dates already announced this year in support of There’s Always A Song, and if she’s coming to a city near you, you’re not going to want to miss it.

5/1 – The Southgate House Revival – Newport, KY*

5/2 – Rose Bowl Tavern – Urbana, IL*

5/3 – Zanzabar – Louisville, KY*

5/4 – Duke’s Indy – Indianapolis, IN*

5/7 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN^

5/8 – Carol’s Pub – Chicago, IL

5/10 – Grand Ole Opry – Nashville, TN

5/11 – Lower Town Arts & Music Festival – Paducah, KY~

5/14 – Club Cafe – Pittsburgh, PA*

5/17 – Elkton Music Hall – Elkton, MD*

5/18 – Gotsheer Hall – Queens, NY

5/21 – Milkboy – Philadelpha, PA+

5/22 – Jammin’ Java – Vienna, VA+

5/30 – The Spot on Kirk – Roanoke, VA+

5/31 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC+

6/1 – Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC+

7/26 – Levitt AMP – Whitesburg, KY

8/10 – Outlandia – Bellevue, NE~

*support from Hannah Juanita

^co-bill with John R. Miller & The Local Honeys

~festival date

+support from Nat Myers


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock