I first heard Kacey Musgraves on the radio driving home from the place I like to call Stoke. My drives to the supermarket / back to Leicester are the only trips I make around the Stoke-on-Trent area. Having a car is supposed to give you freedom, well when you're in an area such as Stoke you don't want that freedom, just the radio to keep you occupied from the Poundland-esque high street shops and the terrible road infrastructure. When I'm not listening to one of my CD-Rs, I like to listen to BBC Radio Four. It's the best radio station in the UK for news, comedy and music. Usually the music is backed by interviews in the plenty and lots of information. So I'm driving in Stoke alongside the gauging waste incinerator and suddenly Kacey Musgraves takes over the radio - cue the country music drive home through rural England.
Hearing the host talk about a 'modern country singer-songwriter from Texas' made me sceptical, but when describing her final track "Follow Your Arrow" as: "The slut song," well, knowing Texas and knowing how conservative and religious the populous is there, it made sense to check out her label debut and fourth album, Same Trailer Different Park.
The aforementioned track is something out of the ordinary for country. It opens with Musgraves singing: "If you save yourself for marriage you're a bore. If you don't save yourself for marriage you're a horrible person," with emphasis on that final 'horrible'. She goes on to sing: "If you can't lose the weight then you're just fat. But if you lose too much then you're on crack." / "If you don't go to church you'll go to hell. If you're the first one on the front row you're a self-righteous son-of -a-" With "Follow Your Arrow", Musgraves is alienating her country fan base, but she's not hitting the norm hard enough in my opinion. She's not a fighter offering an answer, but a musician offering an opinion. As third track "Merry Go' Round" says: "If you ain't got two kids by 21, you're probably gonna die alone least that's what tradition told you. And it don't matter if you don't believe, come Sunday morning, you best be there in the front row like you're supposed to." Musgraves speaks of the typical traditional southern traditions of a Catholic and conservative lifestyle. In her most opinionated track, she sings the most meaningful lyric on Same Trailer Different Park: "We get bored, so, we get married, just like dust, we settle in this town."
Musgraves isn't anti-religion or pro-drugs, she just offers up that choice for people. It's not the punk attitude you feel with singer-songwriters in the alternative country genre, like Andrew Jackson Jihad or Wilco. She's the small town rebel girl appealing to other small town rebel girls. Her lyrical content is far from loveable or danceable country that my Grandma would enjoy. Tracks like "Silver Lining" and "My House" are thinking tracks. Same Trailer Different Park is filled with soft lyricism and repetitive structures. Some may say, 'yeah, this is country', but I'd like to think theirs variation even in the most straight forward of genres. From "I Miss You", "Dandelion" and "Blowin' Smoke", it just shows how Musgraves fails to deliver a decent vocal. Her patchy delivery isn't helped by a left sided steel guitar and male backing vocals, which never work in a minimalistic folk, twang way.
Same Trailer Different Park drags on like many modern day country albums. I can still listen to Johnny Cash albums for hours on end and never hesitate to stop. It's this repetition of instrumentals and structures with similar vocals that I can't hack. "Step Off", "Back On The Map" and "Keep It To Yourself" are more like personal conversations to an ex, rather than an opinion or source of inspiration which is what Kacey Musgraves is saying on the tin.
The more I listen to Same Trailer Different Park, the more I compare Musgraves to an early Taylor Swift. Teenage at heart, country pop by pen. "Follow Your Arrow" is the defining track, however it comes so late. Her refusal of conservatism and religious traditions are accepted obviously, but what she's doing is actually offering up a choice that she actually hasn't made with this album. She doesn't purposely deject conservatism, or the sedentary lifestyle of Texans in the south. Musgraves sounds too obsessed with being the bad girl to think about what topics she's actually singing about. Name dropping weed and crack may get you brownie points with the southern rebels, but it won't score you well with the country fans, the serious musicians and the followers of music with deeper meaning. Music shouldn't be confined to its roots, and I’m afraid Musgraves Same Trailer Different Park is deeply planted. She sings about opposing traditions, but her music is the country tradition. There's no variation in structure, vocals or instrumentation. Tradition is boring, and Same Trailer Different Park gives me even more reasons not to switch on the radio and to listen to my CD-Rs.