Monday, September 21, 2015

"Great Female Records," Part I - Kacey Musgraves

"Trust me, I play great female records and we've got some right now; they're just not the lettuce in our salad.  The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that.  The tomatoes of our salad are the females."  

- Country music consultant Keith Hill

There's still almost four months left in the year, so there's always a chance that before the end of 2015, someone in the music industry will say something more idiotic than the quote that appears above.  But I wouldn't bet on it.

The crazy thing is that, unless my ears are betraying me, this is a great time for women country music singers.  Just in the past year, there have been excellent albums from Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Sunny Sweeney - and I'm sure that's barely scratching the surface.  But this summer, we've seen two albums that deserve to be blockbusters, from two artists who deserve to be superstars.

Kacey Musgraves is probably the better known of the two, and she seems to have taken up the mantle of her fellow women artists to attack those, like Keith Hill, who want everyone in the country music world to fit into little demographic boxes.  "Pageant Material" is her second album, and there is plenty of humor to be found on it, particularly on cuts like "Biscuits" ("Mind your biscuits/and life will be gravy") and "Family is Family" ("They might smoke like chimneys/But give you their kidneys").  Meanwhile, on tracks like "Somebody to Love" and "Die Fun" there is the hint of something bigger and more profound - an artist observing life around her, and having something to say about what she sees.

And on "Good Ol' Boys Club," we have as close to a country music "Radio, Radio" as we're ever going to hear.  It may not have been her intent, but it's very easy to hear the song as Musgraves' direct response to Keith Hill:

Favors for friends will get you in and get you far
Shouldn't be about who it is you know
But about how good you are
Don't wanna be a part of the good ol' boys club
Cigars and handshakes, appreciate you but no thanks
Another gear in a big machine don't sound like fun to me
Don't wanna be a part of the good ol' boys club
The album closes on a very high note, with the terrific weeper "Fine" followed by"Are You Sure," a magnificent duet with Willie Nelson.  And don't worry if you don't see the song listed on the album sleeve - for whatever reason, it's a "hidden track."  Overall, there's no question that "Pageant Material" is an outstanding album.  Having said that, I can't help but feel that Musgraves still has a masterpiece inside of her. 
Coming soon - Part Two, Ashley Monroe.

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