Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville)
Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., Aug. 7, 2015
On her 2013 debut, Same Trailer Different Park, East Texas native Kacey Musgraves became the woman who might finally save mainstream country from itself. Eschewing Top 40 twang's shellacked production as well as God-and-guns patriotism, she adopted a gritty, unfettered small-band approach. Pageant Material maintains those standards, but spruced-up production and the "aw shucks" wonderment of her new reality in songs like "Dime Store Cowgirl" ("I've had my picture made with Willie Nelson/ Stayed in a hotel with a pool") speak to the now-26-year-old having had a chart-topping debut. Both make the songwriting stick. Bluesy "This Town" finds her grappling with career trajectory and roots, unsure how to fit in where she clearly felt she never belonged. Musgraves' bread and butter (or perhaps another carb) remains don't-tread-on-me anthems on the order of "Biscuits," a sparkling, infectious tribute to mindin' your own damn business ("Just hoe your own row/ And raise your own babies/ Smoke your own smoke/ And grow your own daisies"). Although such sentiments have become her calling card, Musgraves also pens Eighties-inspired love songs ("Late to the Party"), Mary Jane musings ("High Time"), and music industry disses ("Good Ol' Boys Club") – all packaged inside simple, back-porch country jams. Can Kacey Musgraves save country music? A hidden duet with fellow Texan and country misfit Willie Nelson, covering his own "Are You Sure," makes for a powerful closing argument.