Fast-rising country music star feels right at home in the big city
Get to know Kacey Musgraves. Her penchant for salty, "real talk" narratives has cast her as a sort of anti-Taylor Swift. The country world has embraced her, though she's still known as the favorite country singer of those who don't listen to much country. Her major label debut album "Same Trailer Different Park" is sure to appear in many critics' year end best of lists dominated by indie rock. All things considered, Manhattan's Bowery Ballroom was a fitting site for the opening night of Musgraves' long-awaited headlining tour.
Musgraves has been a trending topic all year, but the Texas native, who turned 25 last month, had recently remained just left of the centerstage spotlight, opening on Kenny Chesney's massive No Shoes Nation tour while "Same Trailer" grew more popular. And years prior to her major label debut, she'd grown famous in Nashville for penning other artists' hits, like Miranda Lambert's barnburning "Mama's Broken Heart," which she played herself last night to a rousing response.
|Kacey at the Bowery|
Musgraves gives a nod of approval to marijuana use and love of all kinds in her own music, and though she's gotten well-deserved praise for it, she's not the only one in Nashville with forward-thinking ideas. Another such singer-songwriter, "Same Trailer DIfferent Park" collaborator Brandy Clark opened the evening with some familiar tunes (the Band Perry's "Better Dig Two," which she co-wrote) and some not-yet familiar selections from her forthcoming album "12 Stories," due Oct. 22 via Slate Creek. Her stark, honest narratives of trailer parks, lottery tickets, and weed smoking wives are already familiar to country insiders; now outsiders recently won over by Musgraves have a second new favorite country singer.
For her headlining set, Musgraves proved she knows how to stretch a small body of work into a far more dynamic experience than one major album might suggest. Her cover songs choices covered a gutsy spectrum but none of them pushed her where she didn't belong. There was reggae's glory days (Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds"), semi-vintage alt rock (Weezer's "Island in the Sun" and the Cardigans' "Lovefool") and 50s soul ("I Put a Spell On You"); all complimented the Musgraves originals and pointed out the strengths in her own songwriting. Here's to hoping for breezy, danceable pop in the vein of "Lovefool" on her next album. She did perform two new, unreleased songs: the mid tempo, steel guitar-tinged "High Time" and most impressively, an uplifting Shane McAnally collaboration called "Rainbow" -- "There's always been a rainbow hanging over your head," the chorus reassures.
Playing with a sharp, well-dressed backing band, and touching on nearly every bit of her breakout album, Musgraves kept the crowd in the palm of her capable hands. Like clockwork, barroom rocker "Blowin' Smoke" lifted the tempo several slow songs in, then "Silver Lining" closed out the first act, and the Musgraves manifesto "Follow Your Arrow" capped the encore, with the most enthusiastic reaction of the night. Once the Same Trailer Different Tour wraps, she'll go back to opening for the heavier hitters -- with dates scheduled with Lady Antebellum -- but there is really no reason to hurry. Musgraves is one of country's most beloved new voices and from Nashville and beyond, she's got plenty of support in her corner.
Here's the set list from Kacey Musgraves' headlining performance:
Island in the Sun (Weezer cover)
I Miss You
Keep It To Yourself
I Put A Spell On You (Screamin' Jay Hawkins cover)
Mama's Broken Heart (As performed by Miranda Lambert)
High Time (new song)
Back On the Map
It Is What It Is
Step Off/ Three Little Birds (Bob Marley cover)
Merry Go Round
Rainbow (new song)
Follow Your Arrow