Kacey Musgraves With John and Jacob Granada Theater, Dallas Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Kacey Musgraves and I come from similar backgrounds. Musgraves grew up in East Texas, Mineola to be exact, and I come from a little town just about 75 miles north of there. Musgraves' debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, is largely about her disillusionment with the expectations of living in East Texas, something that anyone who grew up in a two-stoplight town can identify with.
Last night at the Granada Theater, it seemed like just about everybody in that sold-out house was a small-town transplant who was ready to shake off the city and revel a little bit in Musgraves' irreverent takes on small-town self-righteousness. For an artist with a relatively mid-to-downtempo body of work, the Granada buzzed with anticipation as the crown princess of country music took her stage.
And it was her stage. In the 15 minutes between opener John and Jacob and Musgraves' set, stagehands transformed the Granada's blank canvas into an only slightly cheesy Southwestern landscape. Neon cacti and the band's bedazzled (and light-up) jackets provided enough showy old Nashville kitsch to make you really feel like you were at a country show. If that wasn't enough, the throngs of people in cowboy boots and belt buckles should have been enough to convince anyone.
When Musgraves took the stage, the tone was set. No longer was she the shy-looking girl on the cover of her album. In the past year, Musgraves has really come into her own as a performer. She's always been a well-respected artist, having penned tunes like Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart" and and Martina McBride's "When You Love A Sinner," but it's been exciting to watch Musgraves evolve into the star she was destined to be. Last night, it seemed as if that evolution was complete.
Launching into "Silver Linings," Musgraves' vocals were as strong live as they are on the record. After playing through a few more of the record's key tracks, like "Blowin' Smoke" and "Keep It to Yourself," it was clear that Musgraves is so much more than just another country songwriting girl with a guitar. Instead, she represents a segment of country music that has been missing for at least a decade: The strong, take-no-shit female artist who can play as hard as the boys.
Because Same Trailer, Different Park is Musgraves' first release, the evening was sprinkled with a set of well-picked covers. An impromptu singalong to TLC's "No Scrubs" was one of the highest points of the evening. The diversity in Musgraves' set is indicative of country music's more progressive elements; instead of sticking with the same, white-bread trends, she's chosen to forge her own musical path.
Still, there were plenty of classic covers, most of which played as respectful nods to artists that Musgraves clearly respects. A fun, upbeat and somewhat beachy version of George Strait's "I Just Want to Dance With You" got some of the night's biggest cheers, as did a cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'." Most of the time, covers are just unnecessary fillers at shows, but these felt like they were part of Musgraves' respect for the artists that influenced her sound.
Nevertheless, the best tracks of the evening were written by Musgraves herself. A soulful, acoustic rendition of "Back on the Map" was particularly well-performed during the encore, but the best performance of the night was "Biscuits," a song that will likely be included on Musgraves' yet-to-be-announced follow-up record. "Mind your own biscuits, and life will be gravy" would have been cheesy in any other context, but not when you consider that seems to be a relatively simplified version of Musgraves' overall philosophy both as a songwriter and human being.
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Other as-yet-unreleased tracks like "Cup of Tea," though, almost made that philosophy somewhat redundant. Clearly, Musgraves' message is that everyone should be themselves and "follow their arrow," but there's a point at which the lyrical content of her songs should probably find a little more depth. Still, there is so much to love about last night's show that this almost feels like a nit-picky concern, especially when you consider how vapid the rest of charting country music is these days.
To close out the show, Musgraves played "Follow Your Arrow," her biggest hit to date. This song has earned Musgraves countless awards and praise from the critics, and it remains one of her best. It isn't often that you get to hear a country artist tell people that they should be who they are, even if that means being gay or smoking pot or otherwise not fitting into cultural norms.
As Musgraves' star continues to rise, it's unlikely that her fans will be able to experience her music again in a setting as intimate as the Granada Theater, which made this show special in its own right. Perhaps 10 years from now, the show's attendees will be able to look back fondly on the evening as Musgraves is selling out AT&T Stadium.
And it will likely happen, because it is clear that country audiences have been craving the kind of authentic-but-unique country sound that Musgraves brings to the table, even if they aren't too sure about where they stand on their politics. Even though she's already won a Grammy for Best Country Album and earned countless other accolades, we haven't seen the best from Kacey Musgroves yet. Not by a long shot.