Same Trailer Different Park

Kacey Musgraves

Mercury Nashville, 2013

http://www.kaceymusgraves.com

REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/29/2019

There are certain underlying expectations associated with female country singers. Their love songs should sound like Western fairy tales. Their breakup songs should sound be tragic but not depressing, angry but not ugly. And when talking about home, only a romanticized version will do.

Kacey Musgraves is not here to meet your expectations. As her debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, proves, she is here to subvert – and surpass – them.

The penultimate song on the album, “Follow Your Arrow,” is its summation, an upbeat barroom anthem about charting your own course. The song’s message of empowerment and independence is far from new, in country music or pop, but Musgraves brings an edge that raises eyebrows. The song’s central conceit is that you’re going to be judged no matter what you do, so you might as well do what you want. Any (every?) female songwriter can tell listeners to listen to their heart, but especially in Nashville, few are so bluntly antagonistic about it.

That confrontational attitude runs through the entire album, whether in love (“Keep It To Yourself”) or community (“Step Off”). Musgraves establishes herself throughout the album as a tell-it-like-is storyteller, but manages, with humor on the one hand and her gentle, vibrant voice on the other, to do so without seeming angry or off-putting. Her bluntness is a tool rather than a bludgeon.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That’s not to say that Same Trailer Different Park is all about sniping at enemies. “My House” is the kind of country song that makes Nashville cringe, a celebration of what rural life really looks like for so much of the heartland – not acres of green pasture, but a broken-down camper: “Water and electric and a place to drain the septic / Any KOA is A-OK as long as I’m with you.” Alternating between tongue-in-cheek and sincere, “My House” is utterly honest, and its bouncy tune gives it an irresistible charm.

“Blowin’ Smoke” is another frank look at lives often ignored, a bluesy rocker chronicling the dead end jobs and unfulfilled dreams of a waitress on her smoke break. This is the kind of song you’ll never hear on country radio (too depressing) but which would speak to more people than Nashville execs might like to admit. “Merry ‘Go Round,” probably the best written song on the album, similarly eschews radio play by being too honest for its own good: “Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay / Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane / And Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down / Mary Mary quite contrary / We get bored, so we get married / And just like dust we settle in this town / On this broken merry go 'round.”

As if to soften the blow of all this unfiltered social criticism, Musgraves also offers standard, albeit beautiful, love songs. “Dandelion” isn’t breaking any new ground, but it shows a skilled songwriter at work, and “It Is What It Is” is the kind of lilting ballad that gets folks teary-eyed at dance halls across the country every Friday night. If Musgraves wanted to chart a career in this more conventional lane, she’d do just fine.

But if this album shows anything, it’s that from day one Musgraves has been unwilling to settle for what others think she should be. While not yet displaying the musical sophistication that would make her a household name with Golden Hour, Same Trailer Different Park introduces listeners to a singer-songwriter unafraid to burn bridges and unwilling to put on a pretty face for the sake of success. Stripped of artifice, Musgraves’ debut album is raw, unfiltered, and honest. Six years later, with Musgraves now a Grammy-winning crossover star, perhaps Nashville should take heed.

Rating: A-

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