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Kacey

Same Trailer Different Park

Kacey Musgraves - 2013

By no means do I consider myself a ‘fan’ of country music. Certainly I do not dislike the genre; it’s just that I have never really been exposed to it (other than when we first moved to the States and my very Scottish father discovered big cars, Stetson hats, cowboy boots and some guy called Garth Brooks). My fiancée as of late has taken a rather moderate approach to rectifying the absence of country music in my life and all in all I’ve discovered a like for it. The type of ‘like’ that means if it’s on, I’ll listen and generally enjoy. (This is made easier by my lady’s good choice in country artists that, from what I can tell, aren’t your VH1 types.) It wasn’t up until recently that I actively sought out a private listening session of said genre or thought to purchase my own album and synch it alongside my usual stylistic listenings (Jazz or any Britney Spears album). That is up until I stumbled upon, Same Trailer Different Park by Kacey Musgraves. I had no idea who she was; if this was her first or fifth album; didn’t know that, according to my lady, she was a poorer version of Miranda Lambert (?). (Side note: This is one of the great things about being rather aloof as far as the state of current music cultures go. There is nothing to taint or glorify an artist. No opinions to coerce or corrupt your ears other than those that you alone make. By no means am I a musical hermit, but through my ageing process I find I am listening to music more so for just the music. Due to this, I believe it has opened up many artists work to me that once before I might have shun…..such as Miranda Lambert wannabes.) What I did instantly know from the first listen (done with headphones as one should always), was that Miss Musgraves conveys a great deal of honesty through a style of singing that seems to never labor or be forced. Her vocal work is effortless and she makes playing it safe (no major highs or lows exposed in her register) a really comforting, friendly and welcoming characteristic of the album. Her voice, combined with the wonderfully simplistic nature of her music has made this album, her first for a major record label, a nice cool breeze on the country music landscape. Aside from Kacey, the real stand out performance on this album is that of the production. It is extremely minimalistic in its approach and through the absence of all the studio bells and whistles, compliments the sincerity of Kacey’s performance. There are no studio tricks or vocal and guitar effects employed. Due to this stripped down recording process you get the feeling that you’re not listening to a country ‘star’ but instead, listening to some girl you knew in highschool who just released an album recorded at your local towns studio. If there were overdubs done you would hardly be able to pinpoint them in any track and the vocal harmonies are almost exclusively provided by the backing band so the live, ‘done-in-one-take’ recording sound isn’t compromised. Every track sounds like the engineer said, ‘recording’ and the four or five musicians (possibly six) all got to performing their own simple and complimentary parts as a band in one room. Speaking of the musicians…the talent found on the album isn’t overwhelming (although still very solid in value) and in many ways this is a plus. As you many know, some of the best guitar players in the world ply their trade in the country music scene so it’s none too surprising to hear some fantastic guitar work in country songs. Fortunately that is missing here because its presence would grind harshly with the effortless sound that Kacey and her band are providing. Instead, the overall simplistic style of playing compliments the minimalistic production values which as mentioned compliments Kacey’s vocal sound and lyrics. Now, lyrically there are some similar country music subject matter (living and exploring the states in a trailer, hearing from drunk lovers late at night, etc.), but there’s also some, albeit soft, takes on biting social commentary on songs such as Step Off, Merry Go ‘Round and Follow Your Arrow. On these tracks Kacey takes a swipe at societal expectations heaped on us by others and ourselves and the hypocrisy that can follow when we not only try to ‘fit in’ but also when we stay true to our own wants. She displays a conscious awareness with some wit and truth but never crosses the line that many an artist can do when they start being preachy on their badly constructed soap boxes. It’s like listening to a great debater. Agree or disagree, you can take their point to heart because of how they have presented it to you. Overall the album is in great balance with itself. It starts off in a rather soft and subtle way (helped by a particularly reduced role for the drummer) but starts picking up half way through. The grooves flow through country swing (My House, Step Off), country rock (Blowin’ Smoke), country bounce (Silver Lining) and to be found is a very Sara McLachlan-sounding ballad, (Back On The Map). Although harmonically it’s not Giant Steps, there are some interesting chord choices every now and then which makes you prick up your ears such as the work done on, Miss You and Dandelion. Same Trailer Different Park is a wonderfully honest and simple approach to county music and Kacey Musgraves is a delight and rarity in her stripped down approach to singing. The album sounds like a throw-back to a time when country music lived on country porches and I will quite happily go and take a seat there any time as long as Kacey Musgraves is singing her songs.

Posted by Andrew Scott

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Posted: 04/14/2014