Album Review: Kacey Musgraves, <i>Same Trailer Different Park</i>

Kacey-Musgraves-Same-Trailer-Different-Park

Kacey Musgraves
Same Trailer Different Park

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In just over half a decade, the now-24-year-old Texan Kacey Musgraves has gone from placing seventh on the 2007 season of Nashville Star and releasing a trio of independent albums to finally being granted some well-deserved mainstream exposure.  It was beyond a pleasant surprise when her beautifully written, critically lauded debut single “Merry Go ‘Round” became an honest-to-goodness Top 10 hit at country radio – a format not known for being friendly to intelligent, honest women.  Whether the industry will continue to support her remains to be seen, but Kacey Musgraves’ major label debut effort positions her as a ray of hope for country music at a time when such are very few – an artist who, if given the platform, just might have the potential to change country music for the better.

Appearing as a co-writer on every track along with a co-writer pool that consists of Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Luke Laird, Musgraves displays a songwriting voice characterized by clear-eyed insight and a tone of simple, plainspoken honesty.  She neither preaches nor judges; she simply observes.  “Merry Go ‘Round” foreshadowed this trait quite accurately.  On her debut hit, Musgraves mused on the human tendency to try to escape heartache through a variety of vices such as drug use or illicit sex, but noting that ultimately that “same hurt in every heart” still remains – each distraction is like a medicine that covers up the symptoms, but doesn’t cure the cold.  On “Follow Your Arrow,” she  sneers at small-town gossip while laying bare the futility of living to please others, noting that “You’re damned if you do; you’re damned if you don’t.”  On the witty upcoming single “Blowin’ Smoke,” she takes on the voice of a working class woman who chats with her co-workers on a smoke break about plans to leave her current line of work in pursuit of bigger dreams, but admits that “We’re just blowin’ smoke.”  The set is ripe with a strong sense of self-awareness that country radio has been sorely lacking for years now.

Musgraves clearly understands the value of escapism in country music, as evidenced by songs like opening track “Silver Lining,” in which she makes creative use of familiar metaphors to illustrate the point that if one wants good things to happen, one must accept the bad things that come along with it.  “My House” is a delightful ode to life on a house with four wheels, and to having someone with which to share it.  “Any place beside you is the place that I call home,” Musgraves sings, backed by a charming harmonica-laced arrangement.  Every bit as enjoyable is the witty “Step Off,” which plays like a Jason Mraz song with a banjo.

But oh, how rewarding it is when Musgraves channels pure vulnerability – a gift that finds its fullest expression in the pleading ballad “Keep It to Yourself,” in which Musgraves begs a former lover to let her move on, the lyric anchored by a melody that pierces deeply.  And while “It Is What It Is” has been nicknamed The Slut Song, such a moniker says nothing of the raw desperation that Musgraves conveys through her quivering performance.

Same Trailer Different Park sets itself apart from the pack by honoring genre traditions while slyly subverting modern conventions.  For a genre that takes pride in being the realm of “real” music, Kacey Musgraves is

one of precious few mainstream country artists to actually live up to that ideal, and for country radio programmers to let her slip through their fingers now would be an awful shame.  To call Same Trailer Different Park one of the year’s best mainstream country albums would not do it justice – it’s one of the year’s best albums period.

Top Tracks:  “Merry Go ‘Round,” “Keep It to Yourself,” “Follow Your Arrow”

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16 Comments

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16 Responses to Album Review: Kacey Musgraves, <i>Same Trailer Different Park</i>

  1. “She neither preaches nor judges”

    Spot on. Please let this be the first of many more thoughtful artists to pop up.

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I couldn’t agree more Ben.I purchased the CD on the strength of “Merry Go ‘Round”, but fully expected the rest of the album to be a letdown.

    For once, an album didn’t disappoint – crisp, clear headed songs that could be called ‘slices of life’ .

    I hope she keeps it up

  3. Wow! I wondered how you’d feel about this album, Paul. Color me pleasantly surprised.:)

    This is a very good album. I love how she creates memorable melodies, but is willing to actually say meaningful things within the catchiness.

  4. Quite an excellent album. Completely agree on your point Leeann.

    Highlights for me were “Silver Lining”, “Step Off” and “Merry Go Round”.

  5. Ditto to Leeann’s remarks, including being pleasantly surprised about Paul liking the album :)

  6. the_trouble_with_the_truthNo Gravatar

    I THINK IM IN LOVE! HOPE SHE STICKS AROUND A WHILE

  7. JasonNo Gravatar

    On first listen I find the lack of real changes in tempo a little mitigating, but I also think the album could be a grower since the writing (both lyric and melody) is so strong.

  8. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    There are some real gems on here, most particularly “Follow Your Arrow” and “Keep it to Yourself.”

    Like many strong songwriter albums, it does sometimes sound like a very polished demo collection. I wish more artists could find a setting somewhere between Joan Baez and Jason Aldean.

  9. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar

    Fine review of a truly exciting, promising album; your description of “Step Off” is especially perfect. I find myself hoping Miranda Lambert will listen through this album, think “Bitch Stole My Look!” and come back with (songwriting) guns blazing.

    I agree with Kevin on the production to a certain extent. I think the demo thing works great in some places, but it does lack flavor in others, and having that approach stretched across the whole album (save, basically, for “Blowin’ Smoke” and “Stupid”) bleeds the songs together – which is a shame, since a number of these songs could stand alone as knockout punches. I guess I wish there was a little more variation in sound.

    Still, she’s a force to be reckoned with, and it’s very impressive for a first album. I recommend everyone check it out before the hype gets any louder and ruins all chances of enjoying it!

  10. Good review. I agree with Kevin and Dan. I really like her, love the essence of what she is doing. I adore the understated quality of “Merry Go Round” but I find the entire album overly understated. It’s great, but I just wanted to be hit a bit harder by some of the tracks. She’s super interesting, though. The similarity to Miranda, including the Nashville Star connection is fascinating.

  11. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    It’s not her first album – I have two earlier albums by her – both good albums but not this good

  12. You’re fortunate to have those, Paul. I just looked them up and I can, apparently, get one of the albums (used) for over $200.:)

  13. JasonNo Gravatar

    Is there a version of her doing “Undermine” available anywhere?

  14. An amusing source of entertainment is to watch youtube clips of Musgraves singing “Follow Your Arrow” live. The audience reaction throughout the performances is fun.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfL3cbYlMXY

  15. As a gay male country fan/aspiring country artist, Kacey is quite the breath of fresh air. My favorite song on the album is without a doubt, “Follow Your Arrow,” and my favorite line/couplet is “You can’t win for losing/You’ll just disappoint ‘em/Just cause you can’t beat ‘em/Don’t mean you should join ‘em” because I think it perfectly encapsulates her ultimate philosophy. My favorite country artists are ones that, like me (as a listener and musician), happen to find country instrumentation appealing to the ears while being passionate about quirky lyrics and edge-of-society perspectives, and not allowing those things to be mutually exclusive.

  16. I liked this album a lot when it came out, but I’ve been listening to it a lot lately and I really love it now.

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