Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Country ‘Tis of She

After the good genre exercise and the successful retreat to rock, with the encouragement of Nutboy I scurried out again to another genre and hit paydirt, of something close enough to it.

Kacey Musgrove.jpg

This is the best country album I’ve heard in many years. (Even Mrs. Jaybee - NOT a lover of country music - likes it!) It’s not like I get a lot of country records. It’s just that what I’ve gotten lately has been underwhelming.

Kacey Musgraves is a little realer than the earnest but generic country-rock of Brad Paisley, a little sharper lyrically, and a little sweeter vocally, than Miranda Lambert, more melodic than Steve Earle and more modestly produced than the admittedly excellent Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

I’ve never been comfortable with rock and roll singers who were, well, good singers. Excellent technical ability seems to miss the point in most rock and roll. So when I check out another genre one of the added bonuses is that, whatever that genre is, people can sing!  And KM doesn’t disappoint. Her voice is in that mid-range sweet spot - very pretty, but not saccharine.

And instead of the “new country” scam of adding a bunch of electric guitars to rock it up in the most commercial/lame way possible, KM has some different ideas - she deploys actual melodies.

And the words - another country specialty but oftentimes for all the wrong reasons - are about real things - divorce, infidelity, creeping economic desperation - and are right on the money. So when things get a bit happy/dopey, it’s bearable.

There’s only one moment on the whole record that I regret. When the pedal steel guy gets all weepy on the last song. In other words, when it goes all country on me. Thank god the lyrics are a cold splash of water.

I’m not saying KM’s a greater talent than the abovementioned artists. She didn’t write all these songs herself. But when you’re putting a record together it’s good to know your own limits and when to call in the reinforcements. Sometimes it’s better to avoid making the Unique Personal Statement, and just concentrate on making a good record.

In doing so, Kacey Musgraves has renewed my faith in country music. Something that hasn’t been the case since, oh, Gram Parsons?  A-

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