I’m not immune to the charms of a woman, happily married for 16 years its rare a lady turns my head, do not get me wrong, planets align, right place and right time the current Mrs Donohoe would be dropped like a shitty stick should Zooey Deschanel come knocking. That aside, on the whole I tend not to be a lecherous middle aged man when it comes to the opposite sex. Kacey Musgraves was however one of the most beautiful people I have seen outside of a film or magazine. If CD sales were based purely on being bloody pretty, she would be rolling in the dough. Thankfully this isn’t the dark ages and there is more than a pretty face on offer here.
I recall when Merry Go Round first hit the lower reaches of The Billboard Country chart, lyrically, it was different to what most people, if not all, in mainstream country were doing. I may have overplayed it a smidge, I may have overplayed it to my wife a smidge, I may have bought the album and overplayed that to my wife, daughter, dog, cat and the neighbours a smidge. I liked it.
When Kacey announced her new album, Pageant Material, my fear was in these changing times that we were going to have an album that pandered to current trends, that was akin to those crazy Florida Georgia boys and some distance from Kaceys major label debut, Same Trailer Different Park. Not that I have major issues with Florida Georgia Line, if they bring people to Country Music, that’s great, if those people however think that the duo represent the genre, then I would truly despair. Failing the need to position herself in the world of Aldean and Bryan, as a protest to where Country Music was heading, Kacey would become Americana. Truth is though, Kacey Musgraves follows her own arrow. (Baddum-tish).
By the time this gets published my wife will be in possession of this album, I have bought it for her birthday, and I think she actually wants it. Kacey is quite unique in her appeal to non Country Music fans, I struggle to think of any other modern artists outside of “the legends” that has this appeal, friends who believe Country Music is Achy Breaky Heart have tickets to her gigs on this latest tour.
So what of Pageant Material? Does it measure up? Does it show growth? Is it worth the wait?
Opening with a track highlighted on her last UK tour, High Time, the indicators are that Kacey and regular song writing partners, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally have not dicked about with what made Kacey, Kacey. But this indicates that the tales have moved on from the characters and themes on her previous album, High Time, with steel and Spanish guitars, affirm Kacey is still Country, this track alludes to life on the road and time to take a breather.
Carrying on that theme on Dime Store Cowgirl, the new single, it’s the story of where she was and is, and what she is. You can take me out of the Country, but you can’t take the Country out of me. Exceptional songwriting again Musgraves assisted by Laird and McAnally. A great song that rattles along at a pace.
Slowing it down a little for a rare thing from Kacey Musgraves, of which there are two on this album, Late To The Party, an out and out love song, oh Kacey you have changed! Fear not though, a gorgeous song that shows growth, tales of neighbours and gossip, and social commentary are Kaceys bread and butter, but it’s nice to have a little gravy.
On an album this good, oh have I not mentioned its excellent? Its excellent by the way,
its flawless, when you assemble co writers such as Laird, McAnally, Brandy Clark, Josh
Osbourne and Natalie Hemby, its always going to be good, with her band and additions
like Paul Franklin, you know the musicianship is exemplary, all of that and the album
can’t fail. None more so than on title track Pageant Material, “I would rather lose for
what I am, than win for what I ain’t”. Currently have this track on repeat. Beautiful,
lilting, surely a future single.
This Town and former single, Biscuits follow the Kacey Musgraves route of small town
gossips and twitching net curtains. It’s a route I enjoy and it’s what sets her aside from
her contemporaries. A turn of phrase here and there, considered lyrics, nothing
throwaway. Mid way through the album and their isn’t a dip in the quality.
Somebody To Love, the second of the love songs is reminiscent of something and it
will come to me as soon as I hit send. It is a love song but it seems to be a love song to
mankind. At times she shows the frailty that Alison Krauss displays. At times on this
she errs on the side of bluegrass. No bad thing.
Throughout the album, we do not have wining guitar solos, thundering electronic drums or a bassline that’s closer to Jay Z than it is to George Jones. On Miserable and Die Fun, Kacey gives us modern Country that appeals to purists, traditionalists and pop fans alike. If Miserable is one end of the spectrum, Die Fun is the other but in tone they sit side by side neatly, both summer, both sleepy, both beautiful.
The tone kicks back up a gear with Family is Family, I recall hearing this prior to album release on the radio and exclaimed, “f— me I love country music”. This has not altered, I love this track, but you wouldn’t want her family. “they own too much wicker and drink too much liquor”. A simple song, instrumentally but so damn good. It seems effortless and then a guitar will swoop in and you think I bet that effortlessness was hard work.
She has a great band, a long established band that work well for her. They ooze country music and non more on Good Ol’ Boys Club. Vocally she channels a little Miranda Lambert, but the band for me on this are at their very very best. This is of course the song that has got the column inches, this is the track that people have called a Taylor diss track, really? Utterly ridiculous. It is however a little sniping of Big Machine and I am all for that. Don’t ever change Kacey.
As we head towards the finale, we have the almost lullaby Cup Of Tea, simple and complex all at once, lush instruments fill it out and it is at this point that I consider my marriage proposal, I will take Shane McAnally if needs be, its legal now and for every bit of Kaceys beauty, her talent is tenfold and Shane McAnally matches her talent on this album. Cup Of Tea demonstrates both of their abilities. Phenomenal.
Fine and we have another love song, and the guitar on this is nothing short of brilliant, its downplayed, not even massively high in the mix but its lovely. It matches the song, just great.
We come to the end, a hidden track with the legend that is Willie Nelson, immediately you hear Nelsons guitar Trigger, or certainly someone emulating Trigger on Are You Sure, an old Nelson song and one that allows Kacey to tell us in no uncertain terms, hell yes I’m country. A fitting and perfect ending to a perfect album.
1. High Time
2. Dime Store Cowgirl
3. Late To The Party
4. Pageant Material
5. This Town
7. Somebody To Love
9. Die Fun
10. Family Is Family
11. Good Ol’ Boys Club
12. Cup Of Tea
14. Are You Sure (Hidden Track)
I had fears going into this album, I didn’t want Same Trailer, Different Park Part 2, but I didn’t want a massive change. Kacey has delivered perfectly on what I wanted, she has delivered what I am sure will be a world beater, I assume that she is a shoein for Grammys, CMA’s, CMT’s, CSA’s LCD’s VCR’s (you get the idea of that). Its an assured follow up that is resolutely Country, you can indeed take the girl out of the country.
With this release Kacey will return to our shores, an opportunity to play these to an audience that she loves to play to. Dates in Birmingham and Manchester among others as well as a prestigious Royal Albert Hall date, that is the measure of her increasing popularity. This is an album that will be as much of a joy to hear live as it has been to listen to it repeatedly since it was released. Its exceptional and a different class to most recent releases, its advisable to get on board now, you will only kick yourself if you don’t.
Pageant Material, Are You Sure, Cup Of Tea, Family Is Family
Six Shooter Rating
10 out of 10