Road trip music: Kentucky
From its river front cities in the west, through the bluegrass at the center, over to the mountains and forests of the east, the lives of the people of Kentucky lend themselves to many sorts of music.
That’s something Pam Gadd, who's from the northern part of Kentucky, really gets. It comes to the fore on her album Benefit of Doubt. She’s a singer, banjo player, and songwriter whose music crosses borders among country, folk, and bluegrass. She doesn’t make that many solo albums, more often spending her time backing up other artists, playing in bands, and teaching, but if you’d enjoy country flavor with a dash of blues and bluegrass, and some very fine playing and singing, check out her work On Benefit of Doubt. There are songs of hope, heartbreak, highways, and hound dogs, among other things.
Patty Loveless gets Kentucky too. Growing up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky as the daughter of a coal miner, then moving to the city, forging her way in country music to the top of the charts, she’s always had a mountain edge to her voice -- it’s one of the things which has made her work stand out. In recent years she’s been thinking about those mountain days, and has recorded two albums which focus on that, Mountain Soul and Mountain Soul II. They’re both essential listening as as gateways to understanding Kentucky.
If you’d like to hear what Loveless does with this music, here are several videos to check out
the gospel song Daniel Prayed
with Ricky Skaggs, who is also from Kentucky
You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive, powerful song of the mountains
on a lighter note, The Boys Are Back in Town
Other Kentucky musicians whose work you’ll want to explore: Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, Dale Ann Bradley, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle.
you may also wish to see
Music Road: reflections with Adrienne Young
Music Road: now playing: Crooked Still: Still Crooked
This is part of The Great American Road Trip, in which I’m partnering up with A Traveler’s Library to add musical ideas to the book and film suggestions for journeys through the regions of the United States which you’ll find there.
Kentucky at A Traveler's Library
For more about the road trip (and a look at some great road songs) see Great American Road Trip: Music begins