‘Pageant Material’: Wordplay & wit sets a higher bar for country music

pageant materials

I first heard about Kacey Musgraves on one of NPR’s best online segments, Tiny Desk ConcertSince then, her name has been bandied out in the best way: as a progressive  and irreverent country singer with a delicate but strong singing voice. Her newest album, Pageant Material, is a beautiful tribute to country music while staying true to her own style.

Musgraves’ first album, Same Trailer, Different Park, was a simultaneously cheerful and heartbreaking album about the boredom and cyclical nature of living in small-town America. Her label advised her not to release “Merry Go Round” as the first single due to the bleak nature of the song, but Musgraves went ahead and released the song anyway. It’s lucky she did, since she took home the Grammys for Best Country Song and Best Country Album that year, beating out Taylor Swift’s Red.

Her sophomore release is less bleak and sits squarely in the anthem category. With songs like “Biscuits” and “Cup of Tea”, her empowering lyrics stress the importance of being yourself and minding your own business, but she takes a harder stance against the patriarchal values of the industry with “Good Ol’ Boys Club.”

Pageant Material also sounds little like anything coming out of the industry of late. Rather than focusing on large production value and creating a big summer anthem, Musgraves is inspired by other country artists like John Prine and Miranda Lambert, a family friend. Her lyrics are simple poetry alongside a traditional country band.

All of Pageant Material is a winner in my opinion, but if you can only listen to a few songs, I recommend “Dime Store Cowgirl,” “Biscuits,” and “Family is Family.” You can buy the album on Amazon or iTunes. It’s also streaming on Spotify.

(Image from Rolling Stone)

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