If you were to find yourself cruising down Interstate-75 in the Renfro Valley area of Kentucky you may feel inclined to take a detour at exit 62 and head on down to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. A caveat at the current time would be that you may find some time to kill upon your arrival, as the said attraction will not reopen until September. That aside, within its hallowed walls are inductees aplenty including the likes of The Everly Brothers, Loretta Lynne, Bill Monroe, Merle Travis and Ricky Skaggs. The history of Kentucky music heavily centres on Appalachian folk music and its descendants; one of its most famous exponents, Bill Monroe being considered the father of Bluegrass music. Americana music currently emanating from “The Bluegrass State”, a moniker derived from a species of grass grown in the region rather than the genre of music, continues to be vibrant and inspiring, a small sample of which is below:
Freakwater – ‘What the People Want’
Freakwater hail from Louisville, Kentucky. Lead vocalists, Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin, lend their slightly dissonant harmonies to create a unique and characterful sound.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – ‘At the Back of the Pit’
Will Oldham AKA, Bonnie Prince Billy, also originating from Louisville, offers some storage advice for items such as socks and Hotwheels Cars.
Joan Shelly – ‘The Fading’
Shelly draws her musical inspiration from her home state, Kentucky but also the traditional music of Scotland, Ireland and England. This is a beautifully melancholy track.
Vandaveer – ‘Spite’
Headed up by singer-songwriter, Mark Charles Heidinger, Vandaveer present a dark, sparsely presented tale in this track.
Daniel Martin Moore – ‘How it Fades’
Moore is known for his activism in Kentucky working with Appalachian Voices, an environmental organization working to stop mountain top removal and mining. This track is worth savouring for its gentle reflection.
Stoll Vaughan – ‘Own the World’
Vaughan’s resonant vocals add weight to his thoughtful songwriting, his work being reminiscent of early Springsteen.
Yim Yames – ‘Wonderful (The Way I Feel)’
Yim Yames AKA, Jim James from the band My Morning Jacket utilises a folky feel for his solo work as shown on this track.
Tyler Childers – ‘Feathered Indians’
Tyler’s songs reflect the Kentucky musical tradition in which he was raised and the conditions in which the State’s people live, making reference to the State’s coal mining industry of which his father was a part.
Sturgill Simpson – ‘The Promise’
Simpson’s vocals exude pent-up emotion on this superbly realised ballard. His album, ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’, earnt him Best Country Album at the 59th Grammy Awards
Chris Stapleton – ‘The Whiskey and You’
A lament to whiskey and love; what’s not to like? Stapleton’s vocals express direct emotion whilst his subtle guitar work provides the perfect accompaniment