In Montana, a working musician rides a rough road. The pay isn't great; the venues are scattered and require long hauls, often under dicey conditions, to get back home. Wider renown is sought in adjacent time zones, in cities with plenty of other entertainment options.
That said, playing dance music here has its own rewards. Some venues offer spectacular views, and most of the rest have been in business in interesting spots for a while. You can see familiar faces in the audience, people who've also come some distance to be there, and therefore aim to have a good time. They are ready to two-step, and are good at it.
Livingston’s Stockman Bar is a long-standing establishment that many locals steer clear of nonetheless. It is not unfriendly so much as poorly-lit, a dark precinct of reasonably priced drinks, featuring the last dropped, white acoustic tile ceiling, an early '70s touch, left in town.
With a pretty good pool table and a rear dining room, it's the sort of place you used to find more of in Montana, a last bastion or final refuge (take your pick) where Katherine Taylor resolved to bring a band for a regular Thursday night residency starting in the spring of 2021.
A year later she’s still at it: working with a revolving lineup of A-list Yellowstone-country musicians in front of a small dance floor; working on her songs; working on her singing; working with a fine band on her beautiful new record, The Only Truth. In it she has placed a large part of herself, along with everything else mentioned above.
For Country music to be good, you need to hear the country in it.
Back east and down south, the sound comes from the woods – fiddles, banjos, flat top guitars – and the cried notes of heaven and hard work found in small-denomination church singing. Out west it’s different. Plugged-in solid-body and pedal steel guitars take a percussive tour, fast or slow, through songs. It’s music of long views, raucous times, and lonesome ends. The unspoken subject, in three chords, is the broad space between people and places - a longing for company, and the belonging you might find two-stepping in town.
Styles change slowly here – boots and jeans, high-crowned hats, and collar shirts in busy patterns, with snaps or without. Particular brands are abided by through life. The same holds for the music, a tradition spun out of jukeboxes, where twang models heartbreak and reverb is a measure of loneliness.
All of that is The Only Truth from Katherine Taylor: ten original songs, lively and sad two-steps and waltzes, tied around work and love, on the uneasy freedom found in wide open spaces, and the risk of real hurt run by anyone with an adventurous heart; in short, a country/western classic.
Review by Joe Gioia
Photography by Robert Osborn