The critical acclaim for Kacey Musgraves came quick after the release of her major label debut single, “Merry Go Round,” in 2012. Standing ovations at industry events, praise from widespread media outlets and three ACM Award nominations (including Female Vocalist of the Year) were all there to receive the 24-year old East Texas native and her magnificently sharp song about insulated small town life. Now, as “Merry Go Round” breaks Top 10 at country radio and anticipation runs hotter than for most any other release in recent memory, Kacey’s full-length project, Same Trailer Different Park, is set to hit stores next week on March 19.
Kacey co-wrote every song on Same Trailer Different Park as well as co-produced the record alongside award-winning songwriters Shane McAnally (“Come Over,” “Better Dig Two”) and Luke Laird (“Hillbilly Bone,” “Pontoon”). A trio of songwriters producing a major label debut is certainly not the norm on Music Row, but the chemistry is undeniable as the album carves out a unique spot between the up-front honesty of Miranda Lambert and the sweet contemporary melodies of Taylor Swift. “Silver Lining,” which opens the album with a subtle swing and a verse staring straight at rock bottom, looks for the brighter side to appreciate the bad for the good amidst a poetic chorus full of rich harmonies. The descending and forlorn, “Dandelion,” rings with an intimate truthfulness that – much like the album – gives the impression we’re overhearing something meant to remain private. As if subtly aware of those who may be eavesdropping, Kacey reflects in a quiet voice through the chorus, It’s a waste of breath and it’s a waste of time, I know/‘Cause just like him, you always leave me cryin’.
Young hopes and dreams resonate deeply throughout the album in a variety of ways. The smartly-sung postcard love song, “My House,” smiles cutely about seeing the country together from inside a mobile home. On the startled, “I Miss You,” it’s an unexpected encounter with an ex from afar that brings feelings quickly to the surface. The songwriting is consistently superb while stories tend to take on different angles, as in, “Keep It To Yourself,” a deeply empathetic anti-love song where she’d really just rather be left alone in order to move on.
Not all the desires on Same Trailer Different Park, however, concern love. Double meanings surround the rhythmic country blues of the standout track, “Blowin’ Smoke,” (which credits Waffle House for diner noise) as Kacey sings with more than a hint of her character’s jealous contempt, we’re all out here talkin’ trash, makin’ bets, lips wrapped ’round our cigarettes, when a fellow waitress follows her heart to Vegas. On the banjo-laced send off, “Step Off,” it’s just a simple request for high society to go walk off a cliff. On “Follow Your Arrow,” words from the heart speak to being true to one’s self (though country radio may find objection with one or more of the examples used).
Yet, it all comes back to the lyrical content and delivery itself as Kacey sets the bar high for songwriting achievement. The swampy, country/stomp, “Stupid,” condemns love as a whole before turning life upside down with the lines, I drink to feel, I smoke to breathe/Just look what love has done to me. Kacey’s running vocal, meanwhile, is urgent and informed. And through the melancholy chorus of the lush, “Back On The Map,” there’s an attempt to pick up the pieces even though Kacey’s voice betrays a hopeless outlook. In closing out the record, acceptance does reign supreme on “It Is What It Is,” when she’s looking for love in all the wrong places. But Same Trailer Different Park hits exactly the right spot with an album full of compelling passages and pointed, thoughtful writing. Kacey separates herself here with an unguarded honesty and richly expressive performance wholly deserving of the early excitement.
Key Tracks – “Merry Go Round,” “Blowin’ Smoke,” “My House,” “Keep It To Yourself”