New Country: Brit Taylor — ‘Kentucky Blue’

Brit Taylor — Kentucky Blue

Label: Cut A Shine Records (in collaboration with Thirty Tigers)

Release date: 2/3/23

Musicians: Brit Taylor (Lead Vocals), Miles Miller (Drums, Percussion), Dave Roe (Electric Bass, Upright), Russ Paul (Electric Guitar, Steel Guitar, Tic-tac Bass), Mark Howard (Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Ukulele), Joey Miskulin (Accordion), Matt Combs (Strings), Sam Bacco (Percussion), Stewart Duncan (Fiddle, Mandolin, Banjo), Mike Rojas (Keys, B3, Wurlitzer, Piano), Adam Chaffins (Background Vocals), and Melonie Cannon (Background Vocals).

With Kentucky Blue, singer/songwriter Brit Taylor takes her rightful place as one of the most authentically country artists around today. “Place” is central to the music, as the songs reveal Brit Taylor’s emotional connection to the Eastern Kentucky hills where she was born and raised.

Kentucky Blue is a collection of songs (most of which Taylor has co-written) that explore the depth of Brit Taylor’s country music expertise. She understands the drive in it, the kick in it, the soul in it, the grit in it. Just as importantly, she understands the yearning in it, the desire in it, and the need in it. In both respects, she subtly reminds the listener of a certain other country artist from the mountains of Kentucky. That’s right, the spirit of Loretta Lynn is alive and well in the dynamic performances of Brit Taylor. It’s a towering comparison, but the truth is told in the music.

The album begins with an invitation describing an idea that sounds pretty good (“Cabin in the Woods” — cowritten by Brit Taylor and Jason White) but gets even better with Taylor’s tempting vocals. When the opening fiddle kickoff is followed by a voice that sounds just the way country should sound, you know you’re in for a respectable listening experience. By the time you’ve heard the rest of Blue Kentucky Girl, you’ll understand that it’s the kind of album that you lean into a little bit while listening. Is it the songs? The voice? The atmosphere? All three, of course, joining together to create a world where every note and every word counts. It’s as if Brit Taylor is doing what she has always done well — using music as a tool for self-discovery — and flipped it, so that she is now also using self-discovery as a tool to make music.

The emotional highlight of the album is “Kentucky Blue,” co-written by Kimberly Kelly, Brit Taylor, and Adam Wright. It’s one of those songs that floats above, like a sighing moon on a still summer night, threatening to bust into a storm of emotion but knowing the power of keeping it together. The lyric is appropriately clever without calling attention to itself, while the tune is as welcome as a long-lost fond memory. It’s a fragile piece that feels so good that it demands repeat playing. With this, her second release, Taylor is in excellent hands. Producers Sturgill Simpson and David Ferguson have assembled a collection of tracks where Taylor and her impressive, intimate vocals are given a showcase that should bring her the industry attention she deserves.

Another high point of the album is “Love’s Never Been That Good to Me,” co-written by Jerry Salley, and Brit Taylor. What an ardent song, and what an intelligently underplayed interpretation by Taylor. She has the impeccable instinct to let the piano bass clef — the song’s motor — do the driving. She goes along for the ride and takes the listener on a melting journey. It’s a reminder of just how well classic country material shows off Brit Taylor in every way. More, please.

Another track that grew on me with repeated listening was “For A Night” (co-written by Cliff Audretch, Pat McLaughlin, and Brit Taylor). It’s a bit of a surprise, this delectable track you can move to, almost acting as an on-the-house dessert presented after a meal so fulfilling it really requires no finishing course. The song is a brave bonus and offers a deliciously lush arrangement and instrumentation that is instantly appealing. It’s a refreshing and forward-thinking (despite its nostalgic inspiration) track that doesn’t try too hard to make its point. It simply makes it, clearly yet dreamily. The plucked strings, keyboard arpeggios, and dance vibe are a welcome ending that feels like a beginning.

Kentucky Blue isn’t terribly blue, after all. It’s a sanguine album, often optimistic despite sharing mostly heartbreak songs. There’s a hunger — an aching — to these songs that evokes classic country, yet the performances are so honest that they still sound utterly contemporary. Remembering that some emotions are everlasting can be, ironically, a comforting experience — one of the secret powers of music. With Taylor guiding the way, the emotions derived from life and love and every other subject of a country song are made lucid. She knows that she herself is not necessarily the subject of the love song or the misery song. Instead, she moves aside just slightly, allowing herself to reach (and convey) that emotion more completely. A singer who understands where the power of a good song comes from, she sings each note from that yearning place. Hear for yourself:

Kentucky Blue Track List:

  1. “Cabin in the Woods” (Brit Taylor, Jason White)
  2. “Anything But You” (Brit Taylor, Adam Wright)
  3. “Kentucky Blue: (Kimberly Kelly, Brit Taylor, Adam Wright)
  4. “Rich Little Girls” (Kimberly Kelly, Brit Taylor, Adam Wright)
  5. “No Cowboys” (Nick Autry, Adam Chaffins, Brit Taylor)
  6. “If You Don’t Wanna Love Me” (Brit Taylor, Adam Landry, Adam Chaffins)
  7.  “Ain’t a Hard Livin'” (Pat McLaughlin, Brit Taylor)
  8. “Love’s Never Been That Good to Me” (Jerry Salley, Brit Taylor)
  9. “Best We Can Do” (Brit Taylor, Pat McLaughlin
  10. “For a Night” (Pat McLaughlin, Brit Taylor, Cliff Audretch)

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