Brit Taylor
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Brit Taylor Taps into Patty Loveless’ ‘Mountain Soul’ on ‘Kentucky Bluegrassed’

“I’m just trying to make a bluegrass record like my heroes.”

What's old is new again, at least if you're Brit Taylor. Earlier this month the Nashville-based country artist dusted off and revamped a handful of songs from last year's critically acclaimed Kentucky Blue bluegrass-style, and the results couldn't be any sweeter.

In addition to the horn-fueled "No Cowboys," the sassy "Rich Little Girls" and matter of fact "If You Don't Wanna Love Me" the singer also recorded three new songs with similar instrumentation for Kentucky Bluegrassed, a collection of eight songs that highlight her country credentials and bluegrass roots.

The project marks the first time that the Eastern Kentucky native has ever recorded bluegrass music and the first time she's played it since being a part of the Kentucky Opry Jr. Pros when she was 16. Despite that, the banjo picking mountain music has long run through her blood.

Raised in Knott County, Taylor remembers her papaw introducing her to the music of the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless and others from a young age, helping to set the stage for her eventual musical pursuits.

"When he introduced me to Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless, that was kind of the gateway into country and bluegrass music for me," Taylor recalls to Wide Open Country. "Bluegrass has always been grounding for me. I get almost the same feeling listening to it as I do feeding my donkeys and goats."

Brit Taylor

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One of the album's that grounded Taylor the most was Loveless' own bluegrass endeavor, Mountain Soul, so much so that she even enlisted the help of a couple of its studio players in Rob Ickes and Stuart Duncan for Kentucky Bluegrassed. Other pickers joining the fold included Dominick Leslie, Seth Taylor and Matt Menefee. Each was recruited by Taylor's husband and bandmate Adam Chaffins, who is well-versed in bluegrass through years playing bass for Town Mountain.

"Patty Loveless has always been a huge inspiration to me when I'm writing songs and she was definitely an inspiration for my recording Kentucky Bluegrassed," declares Taylor. "Patty always successfully blurred the lines between country and bluegrass music and her Mountain Soul record brought bluegrass music into the commercial mainstream. It was a bluegrass record, but it was full of country songs. I played it on repeat when I was growing up, and I still find myself doing it from time to time today."

According to Taylor, she also reached out to Loveless herself to feature on the album's lead track "Kentucky Blue," but unfortunately timing didn't allow it to happen. That being said, Loveless and countless other heroes of Taylor can still be felt throughout the project, from the players involved to the songs themselves. 

Brit Taylor

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A prime example comes on "Married," one of the collection's three new songs that Taylor says was considered but ultimately left off of Kentucky Blue. A co-write with Adam Wright, the ditty was written in response to her missing out on a writing session due to her impending marriage, leading to a humorous and light-hearted number. After leaving it off her last album, Taylor said she wasn't going to make the same mistake this time around, pointing to it as a nod to her idols.

"I wanted it on this record because Patty Loveless has ['Big Chance'] on her bluegrass record and Dolly Parton has ['Marry Me'] on hers," says Taylor. "I'm just trying to make a bluegrass record like my heroes."

Unlike "Married," the record's two other new tunes — "Church Bus" and "St. Anthony" — were written after the release of Kentucky Blue, but they still fit into the theming and bluegrass mold all the same. The first, a co-write with Dan Fernandez and Billy Montana, features Taylor's signature hillbilly disco sound as she sings about her tour bus bought from a church that (somehow) gets the band from show to show.

On the contrary, "St. Anthony" has Taylor calling upon the patron saint of the lost and found to help find her drunken lover so she can straighten him out. With references to Rockcastle County and Whitesburg, the song is ripe in Eastern Kentucky imagery, much like the songs of Loveless that have been and continue to be so instrumental to her upbringing and music.

"Whenever I drive home to Knott County, I always put Mountain Soul on because it just sounds and feels like home," describes Taylor. "The album embodies the sounds of East Kentucky better than any record I know. On Mountain Soul II, Patty took her hit 'Handful Of Dust' and re-imagined what was already a pretty perfect version of the song into a bluegrass song. That's really what I hoped to accomplish with Kentucky Bluegrassed — take country songs and 'grass' them up in a way that captures the sounds of home much like she did."

READ MORE: Rooted in Country: Brit Taylor on the 'Real Raw Honesty' of Patty Loveless' 'You Don't Even Know Who I Am'