March 25, 2013

Test Spins: Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park

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Kacey Musgraves is not Taylor Swift, but she’s not tweeting quotes of Nietzsche either. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter’s first major label album, Same Trailer Different Park, came out last week, and the record is just what Musgraves promised: Something catchy with substance. Listening to all 12 songs, what comes across most clearly is a person — one with a sharp twang — using music to communicate original and, at times, controversial feelings.

Musgraves grew up in East Texas, where she started playing music at talent shows and fairs at a young age. In 2007 she was on the American Idol of country music, Nashville Star. Since then, she has moved to Nashville, self-released an album and written songs for Miranda Lambert (“Mama’s Broken Heart”). Most recently, she has gotten attention for her not-so-idealistic rendering of small-town life in her first single “Merry Go ‘Round” (It opens: “If you aint got two kids by 21 / You’re probably gonna die alone”).

While her lyrics might be blunt or harsh to some ears, her voice is angelic. She can make anything from a simple ode to trailer living (“My House”) to a lost cry to be put “Back On The Map” catchy. She has the kind of voice that is still in your head the morning after you listen to it. Maybe it’s because of the sultry country tone. However, Musgrave’s best feature has to be her precision.  She never complicates: No overbelting for the fun of it or silencing to indicate sadness.

The ease of listening to her voice to is even more remarkable when you consider the wisdom of her lyrics. The strongest element of this album is word choice and world play. “Dandelion” is a metaphor for a boy who keeps her wishing he’ll come but never does. “Blowin’ Smoke” — her next single — is about dead-end jobs: “Brenda’s trading smokes for cake/ Still hadn’t lost that baby weight/ Now that baby’s about to graduate/ From college.” In “Merry Go ‘Round” she earns some laughs with lyrics like, “Momma’s hooked on Mary Kay/ Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/ Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.” My favorite line is out of “Silver Lining,” which goes,“If you want to find a head that fits your shoulder, you’re gonna have to go to the dance.”

Despite being a quick 40 minutes, I can’t find anyway to simplify what this album is about. Musgraves’ voice is clear and her metaphors are clever, but even when she’s telling us “to follow your arrow wherever it points,” she’s only starting a conversation that goes well beyond the three minutes of her track. In “It Is What It Is,” she sings “Maybe I love you/ maybe I’m just kind of bored/ It is what is/ Till it ain’t/ Anymore.” Where truth is concerned, she doesn’t sugar-coat.

Musgraves takes a risk in her album by not giving all the answers. It’s a risk worth taking. Taylor Swift might have some nice stories, and she might even be given credit for trying to figure herself out through music, but Musgraves already knows who she is. Her songs aren’t the type that you can use to block the world out. Trying to listen to this album over and over like you would one of Swift’s will just give you a headache. While the music is entertaining to listen to, it also challenges the listener — not to dress up in an outfit like hers and pretend you’re a pop-singer, but to listen to her words.

This album is worth listening to. From track to track, it holds the listeners attention. Each song is so singable that you may even walk away feeling something without even realizing it.

Original Author: Meredith Joyce