History, News, Reviews

Celebrating 10 years of Kentucky Country Music

As the fog rolls through the trees inside the Appalachian Mountains, I sit here and take in the sounds of nature.  Off into the distance are birds singing their songs with grace.  Thunder rumbles as I take in the mountain air.  I sit on the porch reflecting on the sounds of Kentucky.  What makes OUR music so unique that others try to duplicate it?

Kentucky country music is in our soul.  It is in our thoughts of growing up.  We hear it on the front porches, at the church alter, in the field, in the kitchen, as well as on display on stage.

Darkness comes over with the songs of lonesome and sorrow.  We reflect on loved ones we lost, whether in death or from heartache.  Light shines through with the sounds of joy and happiness.  We rejoice when light is shown through the darkness.

Cumberland Gap Sunset. Photo by Jessica Bray

Over the last 10 years of having Kentucky Country Music website, I have gained friendships and a new respect for those that put their heart and soul in their lyrics and songs.  I enjoy learning the history and stories behind the songs. I have enjoyed doing concert photography over the years.

I hope to continue the website and share even more stories with you.  My goal throughout this journey has been to create a positive environment showcasing Kentucky and its music makers.  Along the way, I also want to highlight the beauty of Kentucky beyond music.  I will always fight for our state and promoting the good things about it.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to interview many talented performers.  I never thought I would ever get to interview some of my favorite singers, as well as cover some tough topics.  Who knew that a girl from Laurel County would be standing on the red carpet at Kentucky Derby events and Hall of Fame inductions asking celebrities questions?  I’ll never forget the moment that Steve Wariner and Eddie Montgomery were brought to tears after we got to talking about home and family.

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductees

I’ll never forget talking to Hank 3 for over an hour and how humble he was.  Then you have the Oak Ridge Boys, who I’ve gained as friends over the years.  Years ago, in college, I was told to lose my accent.  Needless to say, I’ve kept it, and many point out how they knew that I was a true southern country girl.

Then I was fortunate to interview rock singers Michael Poulsen of Volbeat, Nick 13 of Tiger Army, and Aaron Lewis of Staind.  Those 3 guys may have rock in their singing but are very much influenced by country music.  Most recently, I’ve been working on an interview series of maintaining sobriety in the music industry.  It has been the hardest work learning the stories.  I love hearing about the achievements and how one overcomes hard times.  One of those interviews was with Tayla Lynn and Tim Cobb.  Tayla is Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter and Tim is Loretta’s personal assistant.

Dresses that Loretta Lynn made herself early in her career on display at the Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum in Hurricane Mills. Photo by Jessica Bray.

There are many friendships that I am humbled to have earned.  I’ve learned from many journalists over the years.  Patsi Bale Cox was a mentor of mine who I miss dearly.  One of my first reviews was her book on Loretta Lynn.  Chuck Dauphin always inspires me to never give up writing.  John Herndon and his wife Stephanie always inspire me that kindness goes a long way….and the Oak Ridge Boys will always be our favorite live act.  Finally, I will never forget the kindness of Alabama natives Wayne Mills and Bobby Cooper gave me over the years we knew each other.  You are greatly missed.

Wayne Mills and Jessica Bray of Kentucky Country Music

Another set of friends have been those in radio that I owe a huge amount of gratitude.  WFKY out of Frankfort offered me a news segment on Fridays on their station.  Nine years later, I’m still chatting away with the Nashville News Roundup.  Every one of them also are very much like my own family.  There is also Tammy Sexton with The Big Dawg, who always brings positive thoughts to everyone.  Plus, every bear story reminds me of her and the infamous “Adair Bear.”  Karl Shannon is a legend who has always been great to talk with over the years.  I’ll never forget bowling with him and Chely Wright and then seeing Montgomery Gentry up-close for an album release party in Lexington.  If you ever get the chance, talk to him about his Waylon stories.  Kip Jervis and Troy House are two local guys that have always been cheerleaders and supporters of my music.

Lastly, there are 4 people that I owe a huge amount of gratitude to for encouraging me to write and dig deeper into Kentucky’s history.  My parents, as well as two of my high school English teachers, Mrs. Hart and Mrs. Cole, were always encouraging me to write and to share the history of Kentucky.  Without them, I wouldn’t be doing this website.

I can never thank each of you for your words of support and encouragement.  You give me strength to keep writing.  I always try to present stories and thoughts in a way that shows integrity to the music and music artist.  I try to conduct interviews as if we are sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs watching the world go by.

Thank you for joining me on this country music journalism ride.  Stay tune as I will continue writing more to help bring a positive image to Kentucky and its music.  Here’s to another decade (and more) of Kentucky Country Music.

Sturgill Simpson and Jessica Bray of Kentucky Country Music at Zanzabar in Louisville, KY.