For years now, Kentucky has been been at the forefront of birthing and breeding the artists most responsible for saving country music in the modern context. Of course, Kentucky has always been the country music Heartland when you trace the lineage of the Country Music Highway (US Route 23), and how so many artists grew up along its path—folks like Loretta Lynn, Dwight Yoakam, Keith Whitley, Gary Stewart, Patty Loveless, The Judds, and many more.
But the most recent country music insurgency from the Route 23 region including Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton and the like has been lacking in women to help represent the movement. Enter Brit Taylor, who called upon fellow Country Music Highway alumnus Sturgill Simpson to producer her new album Kentucky Blue with David “Fergie” Ferguson.
With each song at least co-written by Brit Taylor with some help from folks like Pat McLaughlin and Adam Wright, Kentucky Blue is a pretty perfect specimen of classic country written from a modern perspective that puts the real world struggles of working people in the foreground like the best of music from Kentucky does.
With no pretentiousness or agenda, Taylor conveys her relatable frustrations at finding an easy path forward and a man to love in ten tracks that tug and the heart and stir the soul. These are snapshots of Brit Taylor’s life set to rhythm and melody—songs like “Rich Little Girls” about the ease some women enjoy in life while others are not so lucky, or the watery and string-laden “No Cowboys” about the lack of real men and real country music in Music City.
Sturgill and Fergie find a rich tapestry of country influences to embellish Brit Taylor’s songs with while still staying well within the classic country realm. The absolutely devastating “Love’s Never Been That Good To Me” not only finds the emotional watermark for the record, it revitalizes the lush Countrypolitan sound to do so with enough string power to wake the ghost of Glen Campbell, followed by “For A Night,” which feels like could fit on the soundtrack of a critically-acclaimed movie from the 1970s.
These songs are counterbalanced by the funky and sweaty “If You Don’t Wanna Love Me” indicative of Tyler Childers or Brent Cobb live, and super rootsy songs like “Cabin in the Woods” and “Kentucky Blue” with their fiddle forward approach. Variety of sound is an asset to this album, and makes for an album that you can start at the beginning and listen to the end without any soft spots.
About the only concern for Kentucky Blue is it’s also one of those albums that is always really good, but never spectacular. Every track fits just right, but none of them really take any chances or carry a distinctiveness to help define Brit, while the writing sticks close to classic country themes. But this is also what results in no missteps and a smooth listen throughout.
Like so much of the greatest country music from Kentucky and beyond, Kentucky Blue acutely captures the humanness of life experiences in a way that we can all identify and commiserate with because it’s real. It’s also at a level of quality where it’s should be necessary to update the Wikipedia page and other assets covering the Route 23 Country Music Highway through Kentucky to include Brit Taylor as yet another one of the region’s creative assets.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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