Though some underestimate Kentucky’s role as a producer of unique and talented artists of all sorts of genres– the fact remains that the state is where a wide range of musicians call home. If you’re looking for proof, just take a look at this list of five albums and EPs by Kentucky artists worth giving a listen to ASAP!
Larah Helayne- Good Riddance (2022)
The first EP from Kentucky singer-songwriter Larah Helayne showcases their diverse range of influences, oscillating between country and folk, and infectious pop that’s a nod to the music many Gen-Zers grew up with and cherish. They celebrate their roots as an Appalachian and Kentuckian in their music, with lyrics in Good Riddance exploring the duality of adolescence and the complicated nostalgia we may have for it.
Chris Stapleton- Traveller (2015)
Lexington-born and Staffordsville-raised, Chris Stapleton continues to thrive in the limelight; he’s gained critical acclaim for all of his records including his most recent work, 2020’s Starting Over. In 2022 he won CMA’s “Best Male Vocalist” award, and he’ll even be singing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl. You can’t go wrong with his discography, but if you’re not familiar with his work there’s no better place to start than from the beginning. Traveller is the album that first cemented Stapleton’s place as a modern legend of country music.
Cage the Elephant- Social Cues (2019)
Truthfully, any Cage the Elephant album would easily fit in this list– while Social Cues won a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2020, it wasn’t even the first of the band’s records to do so (that honor goes to 2015’s Tell Me I’m Pretty.) Needless to say, Cage the Elephant has fans all over the world; they exploded onto the indie music scene after making the move to the UK, in fact. However, the band originates from Bowling Green in Western Kentucky, the hometown of its founding members.
Slint- Spiderland (1991)
Eclectic and surreal, Louisville band Slint’s music is an iconic touchstone of experimental rock for many fans of alternative music. If you’re a fan of the post-hardcore influenced bands that dominated many millennials’ MySpace pages, you’re likely to enjoy this underground classic. Though it may be a strange listen for some “mainstream” listeners, it’s a quintessential introduction to several subgenres of alternative rock that continue to find popularity today. Not to mention that legendary producer Steve Albini worked with Slint during their career, leading to quite the crossover on 1989’s Tweez.
Sturgill Simpson- A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth (2016)
While winning a Grammy for Best Country Album is no small feat, the fact that A Sailor’s Guide to the Earth was also nominated for Best Album goes to show the cross-genre appeal of Sturgill Simpson’s unique body of work. Besides cropping up on various best-of-the-year lists following its release, Sturgill’s unique incorporation of sounds like alternative and Western music on projects like A Sailor’s Guide is a testament to his creativity and talent.