The Campaign For Real Country Gets Even Stronger
“Everyone has a book in them; but only a select few have two;” said the Alpha Male to his adulterous son in law in an episode of The Affair earlier this year. It’s the same in music-land; and one of the reasons I approached this album with such trepidation.
A couple of years ago Kacey Musgrave’s previous album Same Trailer, Different Park was quite rightly hailed as a ‘game changer’ for not only the singer herself; but to some degree Country Music itself. While not new, her honest lyrics about life, love, drugs and small town scandals came at a time when Music Row was evolving into soft-rock with insipid lyrics set to a whole heap of interchangeable videos of boys and girls in Cowboy Hats.
It was a fairly significant hit with fans and reviewers alike; and I absolutely loved it; even placing it in my Top 10 at the end of the year.
Could she do it again, or would the record company throw a lot of money at the project and sanitise it beyond recognition (you know who I mean!)?
Well; the album opens with a delicious slice of Classic Country in the song High Time. While the sweeping strings, lashings of pedal steel and Texicana guitar would have overwhelmed a lesser singer, Kacey and her fabulous song win the day hands down. Phew.
The album and indeed Kacey herself are neatly summed up in the tongue in cheek Dime Store Cowgirl when she slides in the cliché ‘you can take me out of the country/But you can’t take the Country out of me’ and sound likes she genuinely means it; in the same way Dolly Parton has managed for fifty years.
I can’t think of a duff track here and pretty much every song could make a radio-friendly single; especially the insightful title track Pageant Material and the toe-tapping Family is Family which will touch people in every corner of the world.
One of my favourite songs is the minutiae laden This Town; but has the voice of Kacey’s dear departed Grandmother in the opening few seconds comes across as self-indulgent and takes away from a cracking song on repeated listening.
Another favourite is a song I’ve heard three tomes on BBC Radio; the party-perfect Biscuits. Musgrave’s sense of mischief coupled with some clever and insightful lyrics coupled with a voice that doesn’t sound like anyone else I can think of makes for a song that will still sound as fresh as a daisy on her Greatest Hits in 10 years time.
Just when you think Pageant Material has all the hallmarks of a record to transport Kacey Musgraves into the Big Leagues; Good Ol’ Boys Club rock out of the speakers. What a refreshing, powerful poke in the eye for ‘Big Business.’ “Good on yer girl” I thought as I stretched the memory to go back to Murder on Music Row before I remembered a song about someone demanding to ‘make it’ on their own terms.
Somehow Kacey has managed to encapsulate everything I/we fear is wrong with Country Music these days in a three minute pop-song. I for one salute her, and hope this song gets sung by singers and bands in concert for years to come.
By the time you read this you may already be aware of the ‘secret track’ featuring a ‘Country Legend’ at the tail end of the record. I won’t spoil the surprise but it bodes well for an album of duets in the future. #JustSaying
Well; my worries were unjustified and after listening to Pageant Material for a couple of weeks now I can see where it starts where Trailer Park left off and two years touring the highways and byways of North America have sharpened up her writing style and made for an even stronger and even more commercial record.
Released June 20th 2015