The late Loretta Lynn's cultural impact transcends any specific state, region or genre. Still, Lynn's trek from Butcher Hollow to the big time speaks volumes to fellow Kentuckians with their own dreams of country notoriety.
Take for instance Abby Hamilton. She's a country, folk and rock singer, songwriter and band leader whose family history mirrors that of Lynn.
"My grandparents were old country fans that lived in Georgetown, and my grandma loved, loved Loretta Lynn," Hamilton told Wide Open Country. "Some of my earliest memories of country were 'The Pill' and 'You Ain't Woman Enough' and 'Coal Miner's Daughter' because my whole family were coal miners, too. I grew up in that region knowing where that was from. What Dolly Parton is to most people, Loretta Lynn is to me."
Brit Taylor doesn't separate Lynn's greatness from the broader legacy of US 23 artists. It's a lineage of country and bluegrass stars from the interstate exits that brought us Lynn, Taylor, Tom T. Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, The Judds, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Ray Cyrus and Tyler Childers.
"Everybody makes the joke that there's something in the water, and there actually might be," Taylor explained. "That stretch of highway is small, and there's an insane amount of talent from that highway."
Taylor looks to solidify her place among US 23 notables in 2023 through an album co-produced by David "Fergie" Ferguson and fellow Bluegrass State native Sturgill Simpson. It's something she's been guided toward since age 6, when she made her onstage debut at the aptly-titled Country Music Highway Showcase.
"In that area, they do a great job at cultivating that history and encouraging young people to reach for the stars, just like Dwight Yoakam," Taylor said. "They kind of come from the mindset, like, 'Who's next? Who's the next US 23 artist and how do we help them and give them exposure?' They're really encouraging. 'If Dwight Yoakam can do it, you can do it!'"
The fearlessness that brought us "The Pill" and other before-their-time declarations of independence was often spiced up by the humor in many of Lynn's seminal hits ("One's on the Way") and deeper cuts ("What Makes Me Tick"). That formula impacted the creation of "Big Time," "Trailer Park Queen" and other measuring sticks of Hamilton's way with words.
"Loretta has a way of doing the funny one-liners that are ironic and it's a joke," Hamilton explained. "I think that's always been the guiding light for me. Like, the first line of the chorus or the first line of the verse is an ironic line that will twist the story. Loretta's writing is a lot like that, so I learned that from her."
Taylor joined a chorus of others by praising Lynn's boldness in the '60s and '70s— decades when the music business was even more sexist than it is now.
"Loretta Lynn paved the way for women in the music industry to be able to stand up for themselves and what they believe in," Taylor said. "She's been a huge influence— not just sonically but as a human and somebody I look up to."