First Impressions: Kentucky Blue by Brit Taylor

Echoes from the collective unconscious accent Brit Taylor’s sophomore set, Kentucky Blue. It’s a compelling listen that features straight-up country, outlaw country and even a watered-down spin on the countrypolitan sound of yore, and concludes with a trio of tracks that hints of even greater things to come. Her songs aren’t cliche-filled wonders stitched together, as too many modern country songs are, but the real deal. They’re from her soul.

The album opens with the fiddle-heavy “Cabin in the Woods,” about how she wouldn’t trade her cozy home for a mansion on a hill. Accented by the aforementioned fiddle plus banjo, it’s a solid opener that embraces the family tradition of country music. “Anything but You” does, too. It’s a love song, but a love song with a twist: “I used to like drinkin’, smokin’ too/But now I don’t jones for anything but you.”

The title track, about coping with the fallout of a broken relationship, would’ve been at home on any of Emmylou Harris’ classic 1970s albums. I overuse the word “sublime” to define songs and albums, I know, but it fits. “Rich Little Girls,” the track that follows, skewers the so-called “gig economy” by comparing and contrasting the lives of working women with the experiences of the monied class: “Nine to five, honey, I wish, more like 24-seven/The only days off that I’m gonna get/Are when I get to Heaven.” “No Cowboy” questions whether there are any more real cowboys in Nashville. (To borrow a hackneyed phrase from somewhere, which I’m probably using wrong, the town’s cowboys are all hat, no cattle.) “If You Don’t Want to Love Me” gives an attitude adjustment to a suitor, letting him know that she’ll be okay if he shows himself the door. “Ain’t a Hard Livin’” shares another truth from the working-class life: Love makes tough times all the easier to bear.

The first seven songs range from solid to spectacular—worth anyone’s listening time, for sure. But nothing prepares one for the final three cuts. The smoky “Love’s Never Been That Good to Me” mines the countrypolitan sound of yore, albeit with strings less obtrusive as they were way back when; in another era, Linda Ronstadt would have had a huge hit with the song. The track that follows, “For a Night,” finds Taylor looking for a love, if only for a night. It’s another throwback, somewhat akin to countrified disco—think Nicolette Larson’s “Lotta Love” crossed with Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You.” It’s just tremendous.

The closing track, the more traditional “Best We Can Do,” harkens back to “Anything but You” in a thematic sense, admitting (and advising) that “when the going gets tough/the best we can do is love,” while sounding like a long-lost Linda Ronstadt cover of an unreleased Eagles song. It’s that’s good. And, as with the previous nine songs, the production—overseen by Sturgill Simpson and Dave Ferguson—is letter perfect. 

To sum up, and to lean on another overused word of mine, Kentucky Blue is simply wondrous. Seek it out.

The track list:

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