Country singers generally romanticize small-town life. But in her hit single, "Merry Go 'Round," from her major-label debut Same Trailer Different Park, Kacey Musgraves does nothing of the sort. It's a remarkable song, but it actually pales alongside others on her great new album.
I was especially struck by "Follow Your Arrow," an anthem of self-determination so of the moment, it might have been co-written via text messages. Excuse me? A mainstream-sounding country song with a chorus suggesting I roll up a joint and kiss people of my same gender? As a country-music fan, I must admit this is a fresher vision of personal freedom than beer, beach vacations and firearms.
You might dismiss Musgraves as merely a provocateur if her song craft weren't so rock-solid. Her wordplay feels effortless and conversational, with song titles like "It Is What It Is" and "Step Off." She sings country songs like you'd expect from a culturally aware 20-something — "Follow Your Arrow" even uses the common Twitter hashtag "You Only Live Once."
But the spirits of carpe diem and dysfunctional romance have long histories in country music, and Musgraves sits squarely in that tradition. Some critics have been calling her "the future of country music." To me, she sounds precisely like the present.