Sound — 8
Musgraves folky light vocal style supported by thin harmonic structure may be reminiscent of early Taylor Swift, but make no mistake this artist is a formidable writer with a critical eye. She introspectively attacks anything in her path, no subject is off-limits. In short, she has more in common with the singer-songwriters of my generation ('60s-'70s) who questioned everything than with most of the rest of Nashville.
She exploded on the scene by touring with Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town, and releasing her first big hit single "Merry Go 'Round" in 2012. The song hit #10 on the Bob Kingsley chart this week, March 16th 2013 up from #11 last week, and shows no sign of stalling. She also wrote "Mama's Broken Heart" for Miranda Lambert, and is currently touring with Kenny Chesney, who invites her on stage to perform a duet at each concert. Kacey was nominated for four awards at the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, including Female Vocalist of the Year. Not bad for a waify 24 year old who hadn't released a CD with a major label yet.
The biggest disadvantage of the intense level of hype that Kacey has enjoyed, is that "Merry Go 'Round" has become roadkill from radio-crush. If you live under a rock, or just don't listen to country radio it's a great song. Now that we have 11 more, why do the stations keep hammering away at it? "Follow Your Arrow" should become the next big hit. It has a catchy guitar lick, daring subject matter, and everything that made "Merry Go Round" mushroom. However rumor has it that record execs have been terrified by the Nashville conservative mainstream into releasing "Blowin' Smoke" next, and taking it from there.
"Blowin' Smoke", bashes smoking, "It Is What It Is", acknowledges the possible advantages of a temporary relationship, "Silver Lining" encourages and commends hard work and determination. See a theme here? Neither do I, except run and hide, no one is safe from her dangerous caricatures.
Lyrics — 9
Her singing is fine, don't get me wrong, although she does not pretend to compete with the huge powerful Carrie Underwood, nor the facile polished style of Kelly Clarkson. But her poetry, such a breath of fresh air in the normally stale predictable world of the prose of the cowboy (or cowgirl as the case may be). For example: "We all say that we'll Quit someday When our nerves ain't shot and our hands don't shake" from "Blowin' Smoke" or: "If you save yourself for marriage you're a bore if you don't save yourself for marriage you're a whore-able person" and "When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight roll up a joint, or don't. Just follow your arrow wherever it points, yeah" from "Follow Your Arrow", and "Jack and Jill went up a hill, Jack burned out on booze and pills and Mary had a little lamb, Mary just don't give a damn no more." from "Merry Go 'Round".
Overall Impression — 8
For a guitarist, this CD leaves a bit to wish for, but for the coffee house crowd it's a bonanza. Any one who backpacks a guitar and goes it solo will have a ball because much like in Joni Mitchell and Harry Chapin's music, the subject matter and ideas trumped the musical complexity plus the songs hang together well. But there are some formidable folks in that group and people like Croce, Simon, Lennon and Van Morrison as well and many many others who were trail blazers with both musical style and depth as well as protest concepts. No one could ever claim that she is off to a bad start, but I am hoping to see significant growth from here.