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Kacey Musgraves

Pageant Material – 2015 (Mercury Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves is a welcome throwback in these bro and modern country times. That means you're going to hear sharp lyrics with more than a touch of humor, story songs and even instrumentation that recalls traditional country, like pedal steel, mandolin and a Johnny Cash drumbeat.

Musgraves' tour de force is her uncanny ability to turn a phrase. She does employ fellow producers Luke Laird and Shane McAnally plus Brandy Clark and Josh Osborne, among others, for lyrical help. Although more than capable on her major label debut, "Same Trailer Different Park," the songwriting is top shelf here. While she may have a thing going for weed (the lead off "High Time" where she sings "It's high time/to slow my roll/Let the grass just grow and lean way back"), it is on songs like the current single "Biscuits" where she is on full display in a song about not interfering in everybody else's life. "Mind you own biscuits/and life will be gravy," she sings on the chorus. Or on "Die Fun," she goes for a slight alteration for where you think the words may be headed with the refrain "So let's love hard, live fast, die fun."

Musgraves surely has an obvious sense of humor as evidenced by the title track and "Family is Family." Of course, the album cover of a plastic looking Musgraves wearing a tiara only underscores that. While knocking pageants ("it ain't that I don't care about world/But I don't see how I can fix in a swimsuit on a stage"), Musgraves really backs up a theme of keeping it real ("I'd rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain't).

Musgraves certainly does not suffer from a sophomore slump on "Pageant Material." In fact, just the opposite. She does not rest on her laurels and, instead, forged a body of material that only solidifies her standing as an artist, who, unfortunately, ought to be considered cutting edge these days.

She makes it clear she's going to do it on her own terms. Taking a swipe at the state of country in "Good Ol' Boys Club," Musgraves sings "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." Musgraves makes it clear for better or worse, she's doing what she wants. "If I end up goin' down in flames/Well at least I know I did it my way." Country music is all the better for that.