By Dottie Scharr
Rising country star Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park is a much-needed step in the right direction for the country music scene. In a post-Taylor Swift world, its music has gone Top 40: dirt paths have been abandoned for paved highways, and Nelly raps on the latest No. 1 single. Musgraves’ music, while still whitewashed in comparison to classics like Cash, relies on strong songwriting and witty turns of phrase to build a fan base instead of genre-hopping guest stars.
On her first single, “Merry Go Round,” she sings: “Mary, Mary, quite contrary / We get bored so we get married / And just like dust we settle in this town / On this broken merry-go-round,” effectively using childlike imagery to complement the wistful nature of the story. She also brings a refreshing edge to her work. On another single, “Follow Your Arrow,” she laments: “If you save your self for marriage you’re a bore / If you don’t save yourself for marriage / you’re a whor…rible person,” and advises the listener to “roll up a joint, or don’t / just follow your arrow wherever it points.” This attitude is a welcome departure from and acknowledgment of the polarized nature of country music. But however strong her lyrics are, Musgraves needs work on varying the musical character of her songs. A washboard effect on 2 and 4 can be fun sometimes, but on half the album it’s just too much hoedown. Apart from a few standout songs, the album runs together into a mass of acoustic guitars and mid-range melodies. In her attempt to avoid the overwrought, bombastic feel that marks many Nashville songs (a la Carrie Underwood), Musgraves strays too far onto the mellow, laidback side – a side that does not complement her genre or lyrics. (Maybe she needs to “roll up a joint” less often?)
Throwaway tracks aside, she shows great promise as a songwriter and performer. Though Same Trailer Different Park is no masterpiece, Kacey Musgraves may be the vehicle to lead new country listeners off the commercial highway.