20 Best Songs about Kentucky, the Bluegrass State

Kentucky, known as the Bluegrass State, is a place steeped in rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. From the rolling hills and green pastures to the lively music scene and the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the state has a lot to offer. Throughout the years, many musicians have paid tribute to Kentucky in their songs, capturing the state’s essence in lyrics and melody.

Among the best songs about Kentucky are classics like Johnny Cash’s “Kentucky Straight” and The Everly Brothers’ “Bowling Green,” which tell the stories of love, heartache, and the things that make Kentucky special. Tom T. Hall’s “It’s Got to Be Kentucky for Me” celebrates the state’s culture, while Dolly Parton’s “Kentucky Gambler” tells a story of a man who loves to gamble and struggles to make ends meet.

Emmylou Harris’ “Blue Kentucky Girl” is a timeless ballad that perfectly captures the longing and nostalgia that come with missing home, while Jake Ousley’s “Kentucky Moon” celebrates the state’s natural beauty. Other notable songs about Kentucky include Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Dwight Yoakam’s “Readin’, Rightin’, Route 23,” and Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute.”

These songs are not only a testament to the state’s rich cultural heritage but also serve as a reminder of the struggles and triumphs of its people. The music captures the essence of Kentucky, from its rolling hills to its bustling cities, and everything in between. It’s no wonder that Kentucky has inspired so many great songs, and these 20 songs are a testament to the enduring spirit of the Bluegrass State.

1. Blue Moon of Kentucky – Bill Monroe

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Bill Monroe is a classic bluegrass song that was first recorded in 1946. The song has since been covered by numerous artists and is considered a standard in the genre. The song is upbeat and features Monroe’s signature high-pitched vocals and his virtuosic mandolin playing. The lyrics describe the feeling of loneliness and heartbreak that one experiences when they lose a loved one. The song’s melody and rhythm are infectious, and it’s easy to see why it has become such a beloved classic.

2. Kentucky Rain – Elvis Presley and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

“Kentucky Rain” is a song by Elvis Presley and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The song was recorded in 1970 and was a top 20 hit for Presley in the US. The song has a soulful sound and features Presley’s powerful vocals backed by a lush orchestral arrangement. The lyrics describe a man’s search for his lost love in the midst of a stormy night in Kentucky. The song is a perfect showcase for Presley’s ability to convey emotion through his singing, and the orchestration adds an extra layer of drama to the already powerful lyrics. Overall, “Kentucky Rain” is a standout track in Presley’s vast discography and is a must-listen for fans of his music.

3. Kentucky Woman – Neil Diamond

“Kentucky Woman” is a song by Neil Diamond that was released in 1967. The song has a catchy melody and features Diamond’s signature raspy vocals. The lyrics describe the singer’s admiration for a woman from Kentucky, praising her beauty and strength. The song has since become a classic and has been covered by many artists, including Deep Purple and Elvis Presley.

4. Bourbon in Kentucky – Dierks Bentley

“Bourbon in Kentucky” is a song by Dierks Bentley that was released in 2013. The song has a more modern sound and features a mix of country and rock elements. The lyrics describe the singer’s struggles with heartbreak and his attempts to find solace in bourbon. The song has a melancholic tone, and Bentley’s vocals add an emotional depth to the lyrics. The song’s chorus is particularly memorable, with a haunting melody that perfectly captures the pain and sadness of the lyrics. Overall, “Bourbon in Kentucky” is a standout track in Bentley’s discography and showcases his ability to blend different genres into his music.

5. Kentucky Dirty – Laura Bell

“Kentucky Dirty” is a song by Laura Bell Bundy that was released in 2013. The song has a fun and upbeat vibe, with catchy pop and country elements. The lyrics describe the singer’s love for Kentucky and its people, with a playful nod to the state’s reputation for being a little rough around the edges. The song’s chorus is particularly catchy, with a memorable hook that is sure to get stuck in your head. Overall, “Kentucky Dirty” is a fun and lighthearted song that celebrates the state and its unique culture.

6. Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn

“Coal Miner’s Daughter” is a classic country song by Loretta Lynn that was released in 1970. The song tells the story of Lynn’s upbringing in a poor family in rural Kentucky, where her father worked as a coal miner. The lyrics are autobiographical and paint a vivid picture of Lynn’s childhood, describing the struggles and joys of growing up in a coal mining community. The song’s simple melody and Lynn’s raw, emotional vocals make it a timeless classic in the country music genre. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” has been covered by many artists over the years and has become a beloved anthem of the working class and the people of Kentucky.

7. You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive – Brad Paisley

“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is a song by Brad Paisley that was released in 2001. The song is a haunting ballad that tells the story of a family living in the coal mining town of Harlan, Kentucky. The lyrics describe the hardships and struggles of life in the town, and the idea that once you are born there, you can never truly leave. The song’s melody is somber and melancholy, with Paisley’s signature guitar playing adding to the emotional weight of the song. “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” has become a classic in the country music genre and has been covered by many artists over the years.

8. Run for the Roses – Dan Fogelberg

“Run for the Roses” is a song by Dan Fogelberg that was released in 1982. The song is about the Kentucky Derby, a famous horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. The lyrics describe the excitement and drama of the race, as well as the history and traditions of the event. The song’s melody is upbeat and energetic, with a catchy chorus that captures the spirit of the race. “Run for the Roses” has become a beloved anthem of the Kentucky Derby and is often played during the race and other related events.

9. Old King Coal – Sturgill Simpson

“Old King Coal” by Sturgill Simpson is a country-rock song that pays homage to the coal mining industry in Kentucky. Simpson sings about the hard work and sacrifice that coal miners put in to provide for their families and communities, as well as the toll it takes on their bodies and health. The song features driving guitar riffs and a strong beat, creating a powerful and emotional tribute to those who have worked in the coal mines of Kentucky.

10. Dumas Walker – The Kentucky Headhunters

“Dumas Walker” by The Kentucky Headhunters is a lively and upbeat song that celebrates the small town of Dumas, located in Kentucky. The song tells the story of a local hangout spot called the “Waterhole,” where people come to dance and have a good time. With its catchy melody and fun lyrics, “Dumas Walker” became a hit for The Kentucky Headhunters in 1990, and remains a popular classic in the country music genre.

11. Paradise – John Prine

“Paradise” by John Prine is a classic song about the devastating effects of coal mining on the environment and the people of Kentucky. The song tells the story of a small town in Kentucky called Paradise that was destroyed by coal mining. The chorus repeats the lines “Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away” which represents the loss of the natural beauty and the way of life of the town’s inhabitants.

12. Mountain Parkway – Sundy Best

Mountain Parkway” by Sundy Best is an upbeat and nostalgic song that celebrates the beauty and simplicity of life in rural Kentucky. The song describes the freedom and joy of driving on the Mountain Parkway, a scenic road that connects eastern and central Kentucky. The lyrics also touch on themes of family, love, and the importance of staying true to one’s roots. The song’s catchy melody and lively instrumentation perfectly capture the spirit of Kentucky and its people.

13. My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night – Stephen Foster

“My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night” is a classic folk song written by Stephen Foster in 1853, often considered the state song of Kentucky. The song is a nostalgic reflection of Kentucky, particularly the imagery of an old plantation and the slaves who used to work there.

14. Ghost of Floyd Collins – Black Stone Cherry

“Ghost of Floyd Collins” by Black Stone Cherry is a more modern rock song that tells the story of Floyd Collins, a cave explorer who became trapped in a Kentucky cave in 1925. The song reflects on the tragedy of Collins’ death and the community’s efforts to rescue him, as well as the legacy of his explorations. The two songs represent different eras and genres of music, but both reflect important aspects of Kentucky’s history and culture.

15. Kentucky Straight – Johnny Cash

“Kentucky Straight” by Johnny Cash is a classic country tune that tells the story of a man who has had a rough life but finds solace in drinking Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskey. Cash’s deep, distinctive voice is perfectly suited to the song’s melancholic lyrics and the twangy guitar and fiddle accompaniment adds to the song’s nostalgic feel.

16. Bowling Green – The Everly Brothers

In “Bowling Green,” The Everly Brothers sing about a man who falls in love with a woman from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the struggles they face in their relationship. The song has a catchy melody and features the brothers’ signature harmonies. The lyrics describe the man’s infatuation with the woman and his willingness to do whatever it takes to win her over, even if it means leaving his old life behind. Overall, “Bowling Green” is a fun, upbeat song that captures the excitement and uncertainty of new love.

17. It’s Got to Be Kentucky for Me – Tom T. Hall

“It’s Got to Be Kentucky for Me” by Tom T. Hall is a tribute to the state he calls home. The song’s upbeat tempo and catchy melody are accompanied by Hall’s distinctive voice as he sings about his love for Kentucky’s bluegrass, bourbon, and horses. The song captures the essence of the state and its culture, and it’s a celebration of everything that makes Kentucky special.

18. Kentucky Gambler – Dolly Parton

In “Kentucky Gambler,” Dolly Parton sings about a man who loves to gamble and always seems to find himself in trouble with the law. The song has a classic country sound, with Parton’s emotive voice and the twangy guitar creating a melancholic atmosphere. The lyrics tell the story of the gambler’s life, including his love for Kentucky and the hard times he’s faced. The song is a powerful reminder of the struggles faced by many people in rural areas, and Parton’s voice conveys both sadness and strength as she sings about the gambler’s life.

19. Blue Kentucky Girl – Emmylou Harris

“Blue Kentucky Girl” by Emmylou Harris is a classic country ballad that showcases Harris’s stunning vocals. The song tells the story of a woman who has left Kentucky and moved to the city, but she still longs for the simple life she left behind. The melancholic melody and the lyrics capture the longing and nostalgia that come with missing home, and Harris’s voice brings a sense of raw emotion to the song.

20. Kentucky Moon – Jake Ousley

In “Kentucky Moon,” Jake Ousley sings about the beauty of the state he calls home. The song has a laid-back, country vibe, and the catchy melody and Ousley’s smooth voice create a sense of warmth and comfort. The lyrics describe the natural beauty of Kentucky, from the rolling hills to the bright stars in the sky. “Kentucky Moon” is a love letter to the state, and it’s a perfect song for anyone who wants to celebrate the beauty of the Bluegrass State.

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