The state of Kentucky has long been a breeding ground for iconic country musicians.
Legends like Loretta Lynn, Keith Whitley, Chris Knight, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, to name a few, all hail from the Bluegrass State. And there are plenty of talented younger musicians following in their footsteps and carrying on the Kentucky tradition.
Originally from Boyd County, KY, Chaney has since relocated to Lexington and is sure to be the next big thing coming out of Kentucky. At only 21 years old, Chaney’s catalog may be small, but he already boasts an absolute masterpiece of an album in which he proves wise beyond his years.
Mercy, his debut album released in 2021, is a 12-song showcase of Eastern Kentucky, blue collar anthems highlighted by Chaney’s deft lyricism and storytelling. An unknown musician prior to the album’s release, Chaney has since experienced a meteoric rise in popularity and has quickly amassed a growing and dedicated fan base, already thirsty for new music.
I had the privilege of seeing Chaney play live for the first time earlier this month, and while I had already been a fan, he managed to blow my expectations out of the water. Despite being the opener for 49 Winchester, another one of my favorite bands, Chaney played a captivating acoustic set in front of a large crowd at the Neighborhood Theater in Charlotte, NC.
And you would have thought he was playing to a hometown crowd. He had the audience hanging on to every word he said, singing along or staring in awe as he picked at his guitar and sang a handful of the songs from Mercy.
I highly recommend seeing Cole Chaney live if you have the chance, but in the meantime, here are five of my favorite songs that he played. If you are not familiar with his music yet, these tunes will make you a fan real fast.
A song about a girl Chaney once knew who lived on Silver Run Road near his hometown, “Silver Run” is one of my favorites.
While introducing the song during the show, he admitted that the street sign has been stolen quite a few times since the song’s release.
“See that girl with blonde hair Life’s shake wasn’t quite fair Never had a choice but to grow up Mama wasn’t always around Her blood father’s in the ground She’d crawl before she used it as a crutch
Silver run, silver lining A flower growing through asphalt Yet her roots are twice as strong Never done always climbing Been a fighter all along She’s only afraid to fall In love with me.”
Something about this one will give you chills. It tells the story of a boy who helps provide for his poor family by working as a coal shooter, a dangerous job that involves using explosives to break up coal in the mines.
The title track for the album, Chaney explained that “Mercy” is about the wrongdoings of some of the big corporations in Kentucky.
“It’s been a few long months since AK got shut down The last coal sign with all their names My mother found out yesterday She needs to find another job I guess the stock for Mercy is down Been looking for a way An excuse will do just fine To get out of this God forsaken town
But it’s on the horizon The change is come to be The city lights will make a man of me Ain’t nothin’ in this town That hasn’t been shut down Or soon to be headed that way But it all dies in the end So what’s it matter anyway.”
My personal favorite.
“Days go faster, time is flying Left behind, and she’s left crying Who knows how our story ends But at least a story we’ll have my friends
What do you say we just hit the road? I’ll turn miles while you sleep Shooting stars in my back seat What if we never come home Ain’t nothing here but living hell Reckon that we might as well Leave.”
“Ill Will Creek”
The only single Chaney released before the album, “Ill Will Creek” is the most popular song for him thus far, and for good reason.
These are some of my favorites that he played in his short set, but there truly is not a single bad song on Mercy. Go give the full album a listen, too, and I promise it won’t disappoint. And then, try to catch a show as well.
Get on the bandwagon early people… Cole Chaney is bound to blow up soon, and you’ll be wishing you had. Before too long his name will be listed alongside all of those other Kentucky legends.
Sidenote: Following Chaney’s performance, 49 Winchester killed their set as usual, with an electric, high energy performance that included several unreleased songs off of their next album.
They haven’t announced a release date yet, but be on the lookout. If these songs were any indication, their fourth album will be even better than the others.
The 49 Winchester/Cole Chaney duo is lethal, one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.