By Andrew Lee
I listened to this album all the way through without knowing a thing about Kacey Musgraves and I’m pleased to report that I enjoyed the whole darn thing. Albums like this are rare for me and they remind me of an apple pie I once ate. So many people rave about apple pie and so often I enjoy parts of it but not the whole thing and the apples make me feel too full. One day my friend came home from his bakery job with an apple pie with a streusel crumb topping and the apples were all finely diced and well blended into the filling and every last bite was delightful. Still not sure if it was Dutch Apple Pie or French Apple Pie but that pie had my attention and interest to the last bite, as did this new album by Kacey Musgraves.
Less pie, more music you say? Here are three reasons to buy Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves:
1. These songs are full of clever lyrics, rhymes and turns of phrase (which is sort of a tradition in a lot of country music). When these kinds of things are done right - i.e. they appear naturally in the song and are sung earnestly and without trying too hard - they can be like memorable little gems the listener can easily remember and take away with them when the song is over. “I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t.” “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” “They own too much wicker and drink too much liquor.” - the list goes on and on and it can be kind of fun to pick these out. With Musgraves’ laid-back presentation I’m willing to eat this stuff instead of sending it back to the kitchen.
2. There is an easy-going confidence wrapped in a sort of cool retro-country vibe throughout, making this all go down like a cold, sepia-colored drink on a warm country day. Notice how the album cover evokes a classic 1960’s feeling. Notice the prettiest songs with the longest phrasing beginning and ending the album and playing their natural part in the storytelling. Notice the surprise uncredited guest vocals after the silence at the end of the album - they appear as almost a sort of confirmation - “if you’ve been listening to this thinking this girl’s an easygoing natural who knows what she’s doing, well, you’re right."
3. For all the self-empowerment, life-lessons, and daily affirmation nuggets in these songs there is also a nod to self-questioning and doubt, and with the album ending with the words “are you sure this is where you want to be?” I was left feeling that I'd been listening to an album that was maybe sort of sad and beautiful instead of just plain cute and twangy.
"Going back into the studio this time around was really fun and exciting for me because I knew more about myself and my direction," said Musgraves. "The majority of Pageant Material was recorded live--which was a bit of a departure from "Same Trailer"--and gave it more of a concise, classic sound. All of the incredible musicians were in the same room playing on the entire record, and I think that spirit comes across. The last couple of years have done so much for me, and this project was really affected by that in the best way. There are certain moments lyrically that still hit me hard even after listening so many times. It's a great glimpse into where my head is from "Same Trailer" to now."