Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kacey Musgraves "Same Trailer, Different Park" Album Review

     Kacey Musgraves set the mainstream country world on fire in early 2013.  In a landscape overrun with cliches and objectification, Kacey Musgraves has put storytelling and simple arrangements back into the radio forefront.  It isn't without it's missteps, but Same Trailer, Different Park is one of the best albums to hit mainstream this year.

     This album has a lot of traditional country elements to it, but it really plays out more like a country-folk album.  Songs like "My House" epitomize the cross the genres can have, with a folk structure and cute and simple lyrics about the traveling lifestyle.  "Dandelion" and "I Miss You" follow in that same ballpark. Kacey never really sings hard on these songs, just softly delivering the lines.  Her voice is at it's best in this soft and tender spot that she finds so often.

     Kacey Musgraves is at her very best when she tells a story.  "Merry Go Round" was one of the best radio singles in the past few years because of its poignant way of painting a picture of middle America through a melancholy and dismal lens, with touches of optimism sprinkled in.  It speaks to the strength of the song that it was able to be a decently well charting radio hit.  In a world of sameness, "Merry Go Round" was too good to ignore, even though it was a complete 180 from what the rest of the charters were doing.

      In the same vein, "It Is What It Is" uses storytelling to create a solid country song.  The subject matter here will turn off a lot of people, as it is essentially about a booty call. While many won't like it based on the risque nature of it, the actual story is something that I'm sure tons of people can relate to.  The nice thing that Kacey manages to do in this song is to portray it neither as negative or positive... It simply is what it is, as the song title states.  Its a well written solid country song that is relatable and simple, can't ask for more than that.

     Kacey uses her creative mind to create some interesting plays on words in "Silver Lining" and "Blowin' Smoke"... In "Silver Lining", she talks about how if you are going to have a silver lining, you have to have a cloudy day... an interesting way of looking at the world.  The song is set in a mid-tempo groove that fits the melancholy mixed with optimism mood, which actually seems to apply to a lot of this album.  "Blowin' Smoke" is much heavier on the production and hits harder, but still sounds country.  This song plays on the way people make big plans and talk a lot of game in different aspects of life, like quitting their job, leaving town, or smoking... In reality, they are all just blowing smoke.  Its a nice way to tie the metaphor of smoking with other parts of life.  Its a very interesting concept, and a very well written song.

     I know I'll catch some heat for this, but the biggest mistake of the album is "Follow Your Arrow".  It certainly has a catchy melody, and sounds very country, but the "kiss lots of girls" line is a cry for attention to me.  Look, I don't want to get into any debates about gay marriage and right and wrong, this isn't about that.  People can, and should, say whatever they want in country music without being reprimanded for it, that's the beauty of the genre.  It just has to be honest.  I'm not sure this song is honest.  I'm NOT saying Kacey isn't supportive of gay rights, I know she is, but I believe this is more of a bandwagon move than a "take a stand" move.  Look, lets be honest.  Gay rights are popular right now.  Its a very mainstream issue to get behind.  Speaking up for gay rights isn't controversial anymore.  Who gets hounded and chastised more in the mainstream media, Ellen DeGeneres or Chik-fil-a?  Speaking out against gay rights is the controversial move in today's world!  Now, I don't think Kacey should speak out against gay rights if that's not her stance, but I'm tired of hearing how "bold" and "gutsy" this song is... It's pandering to what is popular now.  Case in point: Katy Perry is well know for her support of the gay rights movement.  She sent out a tweet encouraging people to buy Same Trailer, Different Park.  I'm just throwing stones here, but I didn't see her promoting albums that are in the same style as Same Trailer, Different Park, and just as good if not better, like Ashley Monroe's Like A Rose, Holly Williams' The Highway, or Kellie Pickler's 100 Proof.  Of course, none of those had references to a cause Katy cares about on them.  It may just be a coincidence, but it smells like smoke to me, so there very well may be a fire there.  I don't hate the song, but for an artist who is heralded as "not selling out", this comes across as maybe not a full fledged sell out, but certainly as pandering to get support.  If you like it, great.  Just quit calling it brave and gutsy.  In 2013, its the norm.  So lets not give it credit it doesn't earn.

     All in all, Same Trailer, Different Park is a great debut.  Kacey is fighting to good fight in the mainstream country world, and making a lot of people wake up to all the good music that is right under their noses.   This was recently nominated for CMA Album of The Year, and right now it's my choice to win if I were picking from the nominees.  Kacey might be in the same trailer of country music, but she certainly takes us to a new park with this release.

Standout Tracks: "Silver Lining" "Merry Go Round" "Blowin' Smoke", My House", "It Is What It Is"

"Merry Go Round" music video

"Blowin' Smoke" music video

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