“Woke up on the wrong side of rock bottom/ you’re all outta pennies and the well it done run dry” begins Kacey Musgraves’ album Same Trailer Different Park, in the song “Silver Lining.” With this cute aphorism, she had me hooked. Same Trailer is an engaging country album, replete with songs that serve as a corrective of Southern culture.
Musgraves has written or co-written all of the songs on the record, and her lyrics are strongest (and most incisive) when they’re critiquing the way things are. “If you ain’t got two kids by 21/ you’re probably gonna die alone/ least that’s what tradition told you,” she sings on the dark and inspired “Merry Go ‘Round.” In this number, Musgraves uses a play on “merry,” “marry” and “Mary” with known phrases (“Jack and Jill went up a hill” and “Mary, mary, quite contrary”) to convey the silly, yet all too familiar conventions of the South. By tapping into our collective unconscious with the delicate banjo strums and the rhythm and rhymes of the song, Musgraves skillfully uncovers the assumptions and prejudices of the behaviors she sings about.
Though her voice isn’t quite as strong as singers such as Miranda Lambert (whose voice is often compared to Musgraves’), she works it to its utmost potential, using background vocalists to enhance and texturize her lyrics. In this fan’s (and liberal scene’s) favorite “Follow Your Arrow,” a male background singer accompanies Musgraves on the chorus, singing
Make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into
When the straight and narrow
Gets a little too straight
Roll up a joint, or don’t
Just follow your arrow wherever it points
(She had the nerve to sing this song at the Country Music Awards, surely to a wholly negative reception.) According to Wikipedia, “Follow Your Arrow” only hit the mid-twenties on the Billboard “hot country songs” chart and the upper-forties on the Billboard “country airplay” chart. Yet it peaked at number four on the Billboard “bubbling under hot singles” chart. Country radio is a funny thing. When singers lament not having a gun or nurse a broken heart over chords, it’s all the rage. But when a young woman sings about girls kissing girls and uses a pedal steel to slide between verses, it simply won’t achieve Shelton status.
Everything comes together seamlessly on “Stupid,” in which the slithering of fingers on the guitar and banjo presents a jaunty undercurrent to the brace-yourself-for-this song. A minor-inflected first verse is followed by the blaring chorus: “Stupid love is stupid/ don’t know why we always do it/ finally find it just to lose it/ always find us looking stupid/ stupid.” The plucking of the banjo takes center stage after the bridge, and then she launches back into the densely packed chorus.
The only two songs I find myself skipping are “Dandelion” and “Back on the Map,” but this doesn’t take away from the merit and strength of the album for me. There are a handful of Taylor Swift songs I don’t care for, after all.
I, for one, am a fan of Kacey Musgraves, and believe she’s brilliant. I’d love to see her live, but I think she already toured the New York area. Young, smart, hip, savvy – oh, and she whistles darn good, too. Kacey Musgrave is the complete package and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the young country sure-to-be superstar.