Just Blowin’ Smoke
Kacey Musgraves: The country songstress for those who hate country.
No other music genre (juggalos not withstanding) receives the same kind of flack that country does. Whether it’s the red neck stereotypes or whatever you want to classify “Accidental Racist” as, country is always dogged for lacking innovation and being not only boring, but backwards thinking.
Well, just as one of the greats retires from the road, country is seeing an influx of young, edgier talent come in and make the much-maligned genre their own. One such artist leading the country revolution is Kacey Musgraves, a 25-year old songstress hailing from Mineola, TX, whose folksy gem “Keep It To Yourself” was one of Esquire’s “15 Great Songs Your Probably Didn’t Hear in 2013”.
What sets Musgraves, who first got noticed after finishing in seventh during the fifth season of Nashville Star, apart from the Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lamberts of the world, however, can be heard in the songs found on her breakout album Same Trailer, Different Park. Ranging from the reflective “Silver Lining” to the album’s most chant-ready track “Stupid,” Musgraves does an excellent job of balancing the dark realities of country life and her own introspection without alienating those of us unaccustomed to life in a double-wide.
On “Merry Go ‘Round,” which was nominated for Best Country Song at last year’s Grammy Awards, Musgraves paints a familiar picture from country songs of the past with just a twist of the contemporary. “Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay/Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down/Mary, Mary quite contrary/We get bored, so, we get married/Just like dust, we settle in this town.”
However, although the country roots are always apparent with the presence of slide guitar and consistent banjo heard throughout Same Trailer, Different Park, it’s Musgraves’ perspective that opens her songs up to a whole new audience.
On “Follow Your Arrow,” Musgraves commentates on the standards by which women her age are held to, demonstrating the warped thinking so apparent in much of pop culture. “If you save yourself for marriage/You’re a bore/If you don’t save yourself for marriage/You’re a whore-able person/If you won’t have a drink/Then you’re a prude/But they’ll call you a drunk/As soon as you down the first one.”
Kacey Musgraves might be hailed as one of the rising stars in country music and, although the same can’t be said for some her contemporaries, her potential for crossover acceptance is greater than you might think.
As the America south continues to have its musical moment, with bands like The Avett Brothers and Alabama Shakes becoming festival staples the world over and ABC’s Nashville, which Musgraves contributed “Undermine” to with fellow singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs, continues its hold on viewers across the country, we’ll continue to look for new talent that is building off of what we’ve already fallen for in the aforementioned acts.
Even as EDM and synth-heavy pop rock continues to dominate the charts, we as fans continue to long for music rooted in the traditions of yesteryear, now maybe more than ever. Over the past few years as bands like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons have exploded onto the scene, millions of people have been introduced to elements of music that they might not have even known existed. And now, as always, we want ever more of it.
Musgraves might not be featured on Sufjan Stevens’ next single or become the face of freak-folk anytime soon, but the recent announcement that she’ll be joining Katy Perry on her Prismatic World Tour certainly hints at a whole new audience opening up the Kacey Musgraves boutique brand of country and it’s this, along with her refusal to adhere to the rules set before her predecessors, that will help ensure her success as more than just another country songstress.
Although Same Trailer, Different Park is filled with vivid tales of country rebellion (“Blowin’ Smoke”) and life on the road (“My House”), it’s the album’s closer that puts Musgraves’ honest, barebones songwriting on full display. Inspired by Willy Nelson’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms?” “It Is What It Is” details a relationship held together by nothing more than comfort and circumstance and it’s the song’s chorus that gives you a real look into Musgraves’ heart and mind, “But I ain’t got no one sleepin with me/And you ain’t got no where that you need to be/Maybe I love you/Maybe I’m just kind of bored/It is what it is/Till it ain’t/Anymore”.
You might not think of yourself as a country person and that’s okay because it’s obvious that Kacey Mugraves doesn’t seek that out from you as a requirement, she’s more than aware of her diverse following. She may not be the next Faith Hill, but that’s something that we as music fans should celebrate and support, rather than chastise. Keep following your arrow Ms. Mugraves: wherever that may point you, we’ll be there with open ears.