Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
There’s a simple conceit at the heart of Kacey Musgrave’s wonderful new album. She’s a part of country, yet she ain’t. The country themes are pretty standard. There are songs about family, and small towns. “I’m just a dime store cowgirl”, she sings, “That’s all I’m ever gonna be, You can take me out of the country, But you can’t take the country out of me”. There’s usually a twist, though. “I ain’t pageant material, I’m always higher than my hair”. And oftentimes the twist is a slightly bitter one. “[I]t ain’t that I don’t care about world peace, But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage”. It can make for slightly uncomfortable listening for a certain kind of country audience. “We all wrangle with religion”, she confides, “We all talk, but we don’t listen”. There are also a couple of swipes at the music industry. “Let’s promise when we get in that we’ll try to get right out”, she sings on ‘Late To The Party’, “Fake a couple conversations, make the necessary rounds”. And there’s a debate about whether ‘Good Ol’ Boys Club’ is getting at Nashville’s own Big Machine Records and even Taylor Swift herself. Sometimes it seems like a thin line to be treading, but it’s one that she safe on for the moment. The records are selling. The awards keep coming in. And perhaps, just perhaps, she’s captured a certain cultural Zeitgeist that others have failed to grasp. It wouldn’t work, of course, if the songs weren’t strong. They are. Or if the voice wasn’t so sublime. It is. Pageant Material is a great album and one that’s at its best when it’s willing to push the conceit as far as it will go. Keep pushing.