If there's someone that Kacey Musgraves ends up channeling it is Taylor Swift. That’s not a compliment. She appears to shoot for Miranda Lambert but ends up as a wannabe-Taylor Swift in all the worst ways. This album, Same Trailer Different Park, is supposed to be well reviewed and all that, but lord knows what all those other reviewers were thinking. This is easily one of the most boring albums of the year with some of the worst pseudo-intellectual lyrics.
Musgraves was a contestant on “Nashville Star” a country version of “American Idol” and placed seventh. It’s not a knock against “Nashville Star,” lord knows that’s where Miranda Lambert got her start but Lambert actually feels like she should sings what she’s singing about. Musgraves just sounds like she opened urbandictionary.com and a thesaurus and picked out some cliché lines and stuff to rhyme it against and “woo I’ve got a song!” She’s listed as a songwriter on all of the tracks on the album and one assumes that she is indeed for that’s how naive it sounds. One can’t imagine a more “worldly” songwriter might actually write about the material that Musgraves does.
This is Kacey Musgraves major label, debut album and if it were the country music scene of the 1960s, Chet Atkins and RCA would probably love it – the album plays to all the strengths of soft, bland country Politian music. I’m a few months late on this album but it's had some time to die down a little and we’re now on the second single released from it, “Blowin’ Smoke” which is just as cheesy as it sounds. Some of my notes on this album had some comments on the titles like “I thought it might’ve been homage to the CW hit ‘Arrow’” on the song “Follow Your Arrow.” Granted I’m not that funny, it’s kind of how I felt by the time I got to the latter end of the album. I just wanted it to end so I could move on to write this review. For a debut album it’s certainly not “Taylor Swift” nor is it Miranda Lambert’s “Kerosene.”
Other tracks like “Merry Go ‘Round” try to take on rural stereotypes and ends up almost as a stereotype itself. Musgraves assumes that additions to commercialism, drugs, and adultery all stem from boredom without thinking of any other circumstances. While that might be so, it’s only one of many issues that plague not only small, dirt towns but big city folks too. It’s hard to think that she actually has ever lived a life like she sings about. This is especially hard to swallow in country music where authenticity is all the rage, being American made, or being country born (which she was born in Texas, according to Wikipedia) is a rite of passage, none of the songs here feel authentic. They feel more like sketches from someone who has witnessed hardships from afar as she was traveling around touring her music.
There are two songs that actually are good, “I Miss You” and “Keep It to Yourself” all feature intimate, vulnerable lyrics in which she sounds sincere. Musgraves has a pleasant enough voice but it’s largely wasted on this album of completely forgettable songs. Long after you’ve turned it off and put on another album the album seems like a distant memory and not a pleasant one.
One might interpret this as a dismissal of female country singers, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Artists like Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Crystal Gayle, Loretta Lynn, and others are what I grew up on. I can understand singing songs that are above your age, witness Tanya, LeAnn, and Lila McCann, but Musgraves isn’t necessarily singing above her age range, she’s singing about things in which it just simply sounds like she has never witnessed, let alone lived. Believability is paramount when listening to most forms of music, chances are your listener isn’t from where you’re singing about, you as an artist have to sell that to the listener and I was never sold. While Musgraves might look up to artists like Lynn or Wynette, she’s nothing like them; she has a long way to go. It’s not that those artists are without their weak songs but their massive hits make you forget about them, whereas every track on Musgraves album are just forgettable, even the two that are actually pretty good.
There’s nothing revolutionary here. It’s just poorly written lyrics set to very generic country instrumentation. Which would be fine if it were even remotely interesting, but it isn’t. In fact it’s largely just colloquialisms or cliché lines that get jumbled up to make them sound different or maybe intelligent. Wikipedia listed this as “rockabilly” and it’s fairly laughable, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis would probably be laughing in their graves at that genre listing (I know that Jerry Lee isn’t dead but he looks like it).
The album is cringe worthy in parts, laughable in others and overall not deserving of the praise that’s been heaped on it. If you want a better, contemporary country singer that sounds like she’s lived through heartache, bad breakups, and etc, just go listen to Miranda Lambert. Maybe Musgraves subsequent albums will be better. Lord knows she’s capable of writing some good stuff, as she’s co-written a few songs with Miranda Lambert; it just isn’t on display here.