There’s been a trend lately to divide country music into different segments or sub-genres. And I hate it.
There’s “Nashville country,” “Texas country,” “Appalachian country,” and of course, the one I hate the most, “Americana.”
But at the end of the day, no matter what the industry or fans want to call it, it’s all country music.
And Brit Taylor‘s sophomore album, Kentucky Blue, is the perfect example.
If you’re not yet familiar with Taylor, you will be soon. She’s the next in a long line of talent that’s been coming out of the Bluegrass State, alongside names like Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson, along with legends like Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, and of course Keith Whitley.
And Taylor’s album blends the influence of all of those sounds into an album that’s pure country.
I’ve seen reviews calling it Americana. I’ve seen people call it an “Appalachian country” album. And obviously there’s a heavy bluegrass influence with its soaring fiddle and even some banjo thrown in there.
But at its heart, Kentucky Blue is a true blue (no pun intended) country album – and a damn good one at that.
Of course it’s country with a heavy dose of that Appalachian influence, given that Brit’s a native of Hindman, Kentucky, in the heart of the Appalachian mountains not far from the West Virginia border.
That Appalachian sound comes through not only in the music, but also Brit’s incredible imagery in her songwriting on tracks like “Cabin in the Woods” and the album’s title song.
And it also doesn’t hurt that the album was produced by another Kentucky native, superstar Sturgill Simpson, along with renowned producer and sound engineer David Ferguson, giving the project a production that helps the album shine on songs like the Tejano-influenced “No Cowboys” and the more funk-driven “If You Don’t Wanna Love Me.”
But through it all, the down-home songwriting and relatable, authentic storytelling are undeniably country – and it should be recognized alongside great country music, not put in a more narrow lane like “Americana” just because it doesn’t sound like what’s coming out of Nashville.
The sophomore album, a follow up to Brit’s 2020 debut Real Me, was a lot of time and hard work in the making. Because like many who move to Music City to chase their dreams in country music, it wasn’t easy for Taylor.
After walking away from a songwriting deal because of the kind of songs she was expected to write to make it in the “new Nashville,” Taylor instead started her own cleaning business – because as she put it, she’d rather “clean shitty toilets than write shitty songs.” (I wish more songwriters in Nashville felt this way…we’d have fewer shitty songs AND shitty toilets. But I digress).
“It was pure survival. I needed money to eat and to pay the bills and to make my music.”
And when it came time to make this latest album, Taylor wasn’t thrilled with the way Nashville producers were trying to make her sound – so she texted a friend, David Ferguson, who’s worked with artists from Johnny Cash and John Prine to Childers and Charley Pride:
“I had been trying to figure out what I wanted this next record to sound like and who I wanted to make it with, so I had meetings with different producers just trying to sort everything out.
I got to the point where it felt like nobody really understood what I wanted to do. Nashville is a town known for chasing certain sounds, but I didn’t really want to chase any sounds other than my own. I didn’t feel like anybody really got that.
One day after a meeting, I was rather frustrated. I texted Ferg, who I’ve known since 2018. I was just like, ‘Man, I don’t know why we haven’t made a record together. Why don’t me and you make a record? You know how to make a country record better than anybody.’
He texted me back immediately and said, ‘How about me and Sturgill doing it?’ Well, I never in a million years would have guessed that was what he was going to say. Immediately, my hopes started soaring. But I was also like, ‘Don’t get your hopes up, don’t get your hopes up,’ because three months prior, I had been offered a record deal by a company who, a month later, just out of the blue said, ‘Never mind.’ So I was like, ‘Oh gosh, don’t get your hopes up again.’”
Well luckily Taylor this time it worked out. And her authentic brand of songwriting paired with her rich Appalachian sound on the new album are already turning heads. The latest single from the album, “Ain’t a Hard Livin’,” has not only been picked up by radio but was also added to the rotation for Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country.
And Brit’s embarking on a tour across the south in support of the new album, including a stop at Railbird Music Festival in her home state, which will feature headliners Zach Bryan and, of course, Tyler Childers.
It certainly hasn’t been easy, but the payoff of such an incredible album will surely make all of those hours spent scrubbing shitty toilets worth it.
Make no mistake about it though: While you might hear people calling Brit “Americana” or “Appalachian country,” Kentucky Blue is nothing short of pure, amazing country music.
Check it out:
“Cabin in the Woods”
“Ain’t a Hard Livin'”
Brit Taylor Recalls Bonding With Sturgill Simpson For The First Time Over Karate: “I’m A Second-Degree Black Belt”
Imagine just kickin’ back, and shootin’ the sh*t with Sturgill Simpson?
It’s no secret that Simpson is a music legend in the state of Kentucky, and would be a dream hangout and collaboration for not only any Kentucky artist, but just about any music artist in the world.
This dream became a reality for Kentucky country artist Brit Taylor, when she met him in the backstage dressing room of the Grand Ole Opry.
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the two connected almost immediately… but it wasn’t over music.
Believe it or not, it was actually over karate.
Taylor recalled the crazy conversation, telling the outlet:
“Everybody had left the dressing room, so it was just me and Sturgill and his son. His son had on a jacket with a martial arts dragon, so I just looked at him and said, ‘I bet you like karate.’
His eyes got big. Sturgill’s eyes got big and he looked at me and said, ‘What do you know about karate?’ And I was like, ‘Well, my daddy is a tenth-degree black belt and I’m a second-degree black belt. I’ve studied Pa-Kua and Tai Chi.’
So we just hit it off right there. I told him where I was from (Knott County), who my folks were and we bonded over Kentucky and martial arts.
I remember leaving that night thinking, ‘Well, Sturgill has no idea I can sing or write a song but by God he knows I can whoop somebody’s butt.’”
That’s the most Sturgill thing ever if I’ve ever heard it. Hitting it off with a fellow musician over something that has absolutely nothing to do with music.
And sure enough, that conversation led to Sturgill producing Taylor’s next record, Kentucky Blue which dropped on February 3rd, along with veteran studio engineer and producer, David Ferguson.
She weighed in on how she wanted her new record to sound a certain way, and she felt like sticking with these two producers was the best direction, considering Nashville wouldn’t let her pursue the sound she wants:
“I had been trying to figure out what I wanted this next record to sound like and who I wanted to make it with, so I had meetings with different producers just trying to sort everything out. I got to the point where it felt like nobody really understood what I wanted to do.
Nashville is a town known for chasing certain sounds, but I didn’t really want to chase any sounds other than my own. I didn’t feel like anybody really got that.”
And Sturgill’s endorsement was quite simple:
“If I didn’t like the music I wouldn’t produce it.”
Stu always right to the point… gotta love it.
Needless to say, the project was a phenomenal success… a shoo-in to land on a number of different album of the year charts.