KACEY MUSGRAVES: Are You Sure Loretta Done It That Way?

“Make lots of noise/Kiss lots of boys/Or kiss lots of girls/ If that’s something you’re into/When the straight and narrow/Gets a little too straight/Roll up a joint, or don’t/Just follow your arrow” , Kacey Musgraves sings on her Grammy award winning CD Same Trailer Different Park.

Kacey - CD cover

Wooo – eeee! Are you sure Loretta done it this way?

You may not be able to identify her voice in a crowded shopping mall but her vocals are exactly suited to the lyric she writes.

And what lyrics they are! 

“Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay/Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down/Mary, Mary quite contrary/We get bored, so, we get married/Just like dust, we settle in this town, ” she sings on “Merry-Go-Round”,a catchy tune about the soul-destroying sameness of life in a small town. (If they ever decide to do a remake of Blue Velvet set in a small Southern burg this has gotta be on the soundtrack.) 

Kacey = Heartland

Sure, she retains her heartland values (she thanks her family in the liner notes, her sister, Kelly Christine Musgraves, is credited with taking the photos on her CD. She poses with country and western vet Willie Nelson in the photo below) but this Stand By Your Man stuff only goes so far. 

“If you think that you still love me/Put it on a shelf/If you’re lookin’ for someone/Make it someone else/When you’re drunk/And it’s late/And you’re missing me like hell/Keep it to yourself,” she sings on “Keep It to Yourself”.

And in the aptly named “Step Off”, she warns, “Keep running your mouth and stretching the truth/ You just might find a hole in your parachute/’Cause whatever gets you high/Will always bring you down.

Kacry - Willie

Obviously, this is a young woman steeped in the traditions of country music while keenly aware of the harsh realities of the modern world. 

Media types have tried their level best to whip up a feud between Kacey Musgraves  and Taylor Swift. Perhaps because they are both precocious, whipsmart young women in a genre overrun with party-hearty drugstore cowboys.

” I do think people like Taylor Swift have opened our genre up to people who wouldn’t necessarily ever listen to country, and it’s made it in a sense more cool,” Ms. Musgraves is quoted as saying on a website called savingcountrymusic.com in an April 2013 feature.  

Nevertheless, some websites and radio stations have taken to calling the attractive Texas twentysomething “the new Taylor Swift”, especially after Ms. Musgraves bested her fellow nominees in a couple of key country Grammy categories. (“Kacey tied Taylor and Lorde for the most nominations received by a woman in 2014, and she totally stunned us when she won the two biggest country awards of the night! Same Trailer Different Park earned the Country Album of the Year album, while its hit single ”Merry Go ‘Round” won Best Country Song. Pretty impressive for a relative unknown, no? ” – 99.6 The Bull.com)

Kacey- KC & Taylor

Of course, it’s hard to imagine Ms. Swift writing a cheery ode to mobile home life, which Ms. Musgraves does in “My House”, let alone putting a romantic spin on it (“So come on hitch your wagon/To the living room I’m draggin’/ If I can’t bring you to my house’/I’ll bring my house to you.”)

In “Blowin’ Smoke” she shows a novelist’s eye for detail in an instantly hummable tribute to her favorite working class heroines – the hard-workin’ waitresses at the local diner. (“Well Janie got divorced again/Her ex-husband’s in the pen/ From two to five, five to ten and longer/Brenda’s traded smokes for cake/Still hadn’t lost that baby weight/And that baby’s about to graduate/From college.”)

Throughout it all she remains a literate spokesperson for  young people from all walks of life. In the CD’s last track “It Is What It Is”, Ms. Musgraves assures young women (and young men, too, for that matter) that she is still trying to figure things out herself. (“But I ain’t got no one sleepin with me / And you ain’t got no where that you need to be/ Maybe I love you/ Maybe I’m just kind of bored.”)

Whatever. It’ll be fun ridin’ with her as she figures life out (no matter what age you are.) 

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Just Added To My iPod: “That’s How I Got to Memphis” Solomon Burke

Solomon Burke - He Earned The Right to Wear the Hat
Solomon Burke – He Earned The Right to Wear the Hat

Seems like everyone on Music Row wanted to record with Solomon Burke when the r’n’b legend arrived at Buddy Miller’s home/studio to record his 2006 CD Nashville.

Sol - CD cover

The guest list featured singers like Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless and Gillian Welch  and session pros including Jim Lauderdale, Al Perkins, Sam Bush and Mickey Raphael. I don’t know if Mr. Miller used a whole lot of studio wizardry on this recording but everything seems to have a fresh, exuberant, live-off-the-floor vibe.

And yet (for my money) the most striking track on the CD has no guest vocals at all. And why would you need any when you have Solomon Burke’s magnificently soulful voice lending weight and gravitas to Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis”.

Just Call Him King Solomon
King Solomon

 The lyrics may be stark in their simplicity but with the instincts and skill of a master interpreter,  Mr. Burke  knew how to add depth and feeling where it counted, backed only by Buddy’s elegantly understated acoustic guitar and Byron House on stand-up bass.

In addition to producing Robert Plant's Band of Joy, Buddy Miller has written and recorded several criticallt acclaimed wife wife Julie Miller
PS Buddy Miller produced Robert Plant’s Band of Joy and has recorded several critically acclaimed CDs with wife Julie Miller

The first two lines alone sound like there is a novel hidden in there somewhere, the way Mr. Burke phrases it.

“When you love somebody enough/You’ll follow wherever they go.

That’s how I got to Memphis (pause)  That’s how I got to Memphis.”

(I swear Tom T. musta been reading Hemingway when he wrote this song.)

Tom T. Hall - Writer of Songs, Teller of Tales
Tom T. Hall – Writer of Songs, Teller of Tales

It’s intriguing to imagine similar arrangements on classic Solomon Burke singles  like “Cry to Me”, “Down in the Valley” and “Just Out of Reach Of My Two Empty Arms” (a country/soul classic if there ever was one.)

Solomon Burke - The Early Years
Solomon Burke – The Early Years

Instead,  “That’s How I Got to Memphis” will be the closest we will ever get to Solomon Burke- Unplugged.  (Mr. Burke passed away at the age of 70 in  2010.)

Okay, I’ll admit it. I can imagine   “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” with a chorus of his Nashville admirers.

Added To My iPod – “Roses” Cherry Ghost

Simom Aldred - the "spirit" of Cherry Ghost

This track from the first CD from UK based Cherry Ghost  sounds like something Elton John and Bernie Taupin might have written in 1970 for Tumbleweed Connection.

And that`s a compliment.

Elton wrote some classic stuff back in the day before he turned into  (to borrow a phrase from  Rolling Stone magazine) a B. E. (“Beloved Entertainer”.) 

Roses is one of the tracks on "Thirst for Romance" (pictured above)

Added to My iPod: “KALA” M.I.A.

M.I.A. at the Superbowl (yes, THAT performance)

If anyone would have told me a couple of years ago  I’d be listening to an innovative mash of global beats, electronica and hip hop I would have told them to see a naturopath.

But then listening to “Jimmy” or “Bamboo Banga”, “Boyz” or “Paper Planes” is insanely addictive so choosing one track to download is like eating one salted peanut or one chocolate (I don’t resort to gender stereotypes here.)

Accordingly I dumped the whole CD into my ipod.

(Yes, I know, this British-Tamil hybrid has released another album and a mixtape since this CD was released in 2007 but this CD still works for me.)

So here I am, wandering through the frozen food section of my local megastore, listening to a track called “Mango Pickle Down River”, the appeal of which defies any rational explanation. Nurse!

"KALA" by M.I.A. (yes, THAT album)


Just Added To My iPod: “Turn On Me” The Shins

Singer/songwriter/guitarist JAMES MERCER of THE SHINS (pictured here in a combative mood)

Modern indie pop with some very cool roots rock guitar on the bridge.

Who woulda thought you could cram this many words into a lyric and still be melodic.

"Turn On Me" is available on 2007 Sub Pop CD "Wincing The Night Away" (pictured above)

JUST ADDED TO MY iPOD: “O Valencia” The Decemberists

Of course it's raining. They come from Portland, after all!

 Lean, mean and mercilessly efficient narrative, sort of a modern day Romeo and Juliet story with a twist powered by an insistent catchy, modified U2, guitar riff.

O Valencia is just one of the darn swell  tracks from Oregon-based indie rock band’s fourth CD “The Crane Wife”

Just Added To My iPod: “Tomorrow Night“ B.B. King

Tomorrow night, will you remember what you said tonight, “ B.B. sings, his voice smouldering like a half finished cigarette.  “Tomorrow night, will all the thrill be gone.

It`s Last Call in the cabaret in my head.

A fat greasy B-movie sax slithers onto the bridge with a carnal come-on and B.B`s guitar stings like a bee.

Add a bump and grind piano and that old sweaty feeling of `use it or lose it` desperation comes seeping into my brain like some half forgotten dream.

Hey, waitress, one more and make it a double.

“Tomorrow Night” is from B.B. King’s ONE KIND FAVOR (Produced by T-Bone Burnett)