Country

Published on October 31st, 2016 | by Andy Sedlak

Kacey Musgraves – ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ [2013] (album review)

Kacey Musgraves – ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ [2013] (album review) Andy Sedlak

Summary: The characters in Same Trailer Different Park share a common sense of disillusionment and complacency. Don’t feel sorry for them – half the time it’s their own fault.

4

Damn Fine


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)

Released: March 19, 2013

Length: 40:11

Producers: Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves

Label: Mercury Nashville

Peak Billboard Album Chart Position: #2

Kacey Musgraves knows only one road, and it’s the road less traveled.

Her debut, Same Trailer Different Park, is now three years old. It dropped the same year as Florida Georgia Line’s hit single “Cruise,” which ushered in its own commercial movement of sorts. The songs on Same Trailer felt a million miles removed from what Nashville championed at the time.

Sure, we now laughingly refer to it as “Bro Country.” And we effortlessly point to Brandy Clark, Maren Morris and Margo Price as new performers who have followed in Musgraves’ wake. But at the time it wasn’t so cut and dry.

Think about that. Think about how radical Kacey Musgraves first felt.

This still image from the music video for "Follow Your Arrow" shows Kacey Musgraves and her band.

Kacey Musgraves and her bandmates in the video for “Follow Your Arrow.”

In spite of it all, Same Trailer debuted at No. 2 upon its release. While no one will mistake her sales numbers with Beyonce’s, the album has sold more than half a million copies to date. That’s not bad for someone still considered an indie darling — someone who is still but a mere shadowy presence on country radio.

DJs mention her in passing as they touch on festivals or Grammy nominations. Often enough, her name is buried in songwriting credits and only occasionally mentioned as a source of inspiration.

Radio doesn’t need Musgraves. And, evidently, Musgraves doesn’t need radio.

Although she remains on the brink of mainstream acceptability, she has the backing of a major label in Mercury Nashville. Her notoriety has been built slowly, through word of mouth. Tidy dirges like “Back on the Map” were impressive enough, but it was the Musgraves’ keen character sketches that keyed up fans. Most of the time, in songs like “Merry Go ‘Round” and “Blowin’ Smoke,” her characters shared a common sense of complacency.

And that’s what sustained Same Trailer longer than other country albums of 2013 – that sense of dread. It was immediately identifiable.

Although divided by the Mason-Dixon Line, Musgraves’ characters grapple with the same struggles as those in Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

John Prine is pictured performing live in this image by Ron Baker.

Musgraves’ songs have been inspired by John Prine, whom she credits as her favorite writer.

Throughout Same Trailer, Musgraves turns to bouts of rural philosophy (“My Home” being the most charming among them). Arrangements are spare … but never sparse … and the artist sounds at ease without sounding aloof. She allures in matching plain spoken sentiments with quirky observations that quickly give way to the dead-serious. It’s a gift Musgraves shares with John Prine – her favorite writer. 

From “Silver Lining:”
If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining
It’s gotta be a cloudy day
It’s gotta be a cloudy day
If you wanna fill your bottle up with lightning
You’re gonna have to stand in the rain
You’re gonna have to stand in the rain

The record’s biggest wake-up call — “Merry Go ‘Round” — also served as its first single. The song only reached No. 14 on the Hot Country Songs chart but was selected by Billboard as the best country single of the year.

Not even three-and-a-half minutes long, it triumphs in its brevity.

From “Merry Go ‘Round:”
We get bored, so we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town

“Merry Go ‘Round” remains Musgraves’ signature song even though “Follow Your Arrow” squeaked into the upper echelons of country to briefly become a Top 10 hit. Hinting at future crossover success, “Follow Your Arrow” charted with pop audiences – peaking at No. 60 on the Hot 100. “Merry Go ‘Round” came within shouting distance of the pop charts.

Singer Kacey Musgraves is shown performing on stage in this photo from Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Musgraves has become a staple of summer music festivals including Bonnaroo and Bunbury.

Musgraves didn’t accomplish all of this on her own. She owes a lot to writer-producers Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, along with writer Josh Osborne. 

Consider their credentials:

Luke Laird:

  • Has written or co-written 20 No. 1 singles
  • Hits include “Last Name” (Carrie Underwood), “Talladega” (Eric Church), “Pontoon” (Little Big Town) and “American Kids” (Kenny Chesney)

Shane McAnally:

  • Has written for many of the same artists as Laird
  • Songs include “Somewhere with You” (Chesney), “Mama’s Broken Heart” (Miranda Lambert) and “Better Dig Two” (The Band Perry)

Josh Osborne:

  • Has written for Sam Hunt, Tim McGraw, Jake Owen and Old Dominion

When these three work with Musgraves, they tend to leave the middle-of-the-road sleekness at the door. Instead, they bring tried-and-true country sensibilities.

That’s mostly because of Musgraves’ direction. 

That’s not to say Musgraves doesn’t write for the casual ear. “Keep It to Yourself,” with its falling-rain finger picking, seems destined for use in a romantic comedy. And had the sassy-yet-playful “Stupid” been released as a single, it could have catapulted Musgraves into the pantheon Carrie and Miranda currently occupy.

Alas, Musgraves put more explicit singles forward, leaving her safer songs to fill the gaps in between. It’s an inverse model from what typically prevails in Nashville. And it’s led to Musgraves’ reputation as a bizzaro Carrie Underwood.

The album ends with “It Is What It Is,” a submission to life’s more regrettable impulses with the built-in understanding that all impulses — whether admirable or otherwise — pass. Such is life.

“Don’t freak out” seems to be the mantra. Another a semi-radical departure for a genre built on melodrama.

Musgraves proves herself to be quirky but not odd, and insightful but not preachy. The songs don’t have much girth, but they swing like only lean country songs can. Same Trailer Different Park remains refreshing, even as other artists picked up Same Trailer’s flag after its release.

Musgraves gave us something to think about. How radical.

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About the Author

Andy Sedlak is a former television reporter who lives in Dayton, OH. He grew up in a household that pumped Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel every weekend. He instantly became a new man when he discovered Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” in junior high.



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