For her 14th album, Kentuckian Dale Ann Bradley — six-time International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year — elects to pay musical tribute to her home state.
With numerous collaborations with Kentucky friends as well as songs thematically tied to The Bluegrass State, "Kentucky For Me" succeeds in its mission. Bradley dueting with several different male voices on several tracks does initially surprise as one comes to the album to hear Bradley, but these arrangements are effectively presented within a high-quality, contemporary, bluegrass format.
Standout songs include "Appalachian Blue" (with John Cowan), "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal" (featuring the formidable swagger of John Conlee) and "Poor Man's Pride" and The Po' Mountain Boys with Laura Orshaw's fiddling receiving prominence. "God Already Has" is a strong, moving song of faith, and the horse song "Kentucky Gold," featuring Sam Bush is notable, as is "One By One" with Danny Paisley.
Rebecca Lynn Howard and Bradley sound especially good together on Kim Fox's peppy country song, "Love Train," while Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford's epic "Dogwood Winter" is recovered from unfortunate oblivion.
The core band includes Tony Wray (guitar, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle), Matt Leadbetter (Dobro), and Ethan Burkhardt (bass). Fox sings on select songs, with Michael Cleveland (fiddle), Alison Brown (banjo), Brandon Godman (fiddle) and Jim Hurst (guitar) also guesting.
"Kentucky for Me" concludes with the Dave Adkins duet "Stop Dragging My Heart Around;" Bradley always saunters into the rock/pop archive for a visit, and she and Adkins do well interpreting the overly familiar Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty song.