The Southern adage "Don't get above your raisin'," memorialized as a song title by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs in 1951, has long been a guideline for country artists. It even dictates their choices in pronouns: always the humble "we," never the immodest "I." And like many things in life, it's more strictly enforced on female artists. But Kacey Musgraves' 2013 major-label debut, Same Trailer Different Park, was gloriously provocative. On the album's two best songs, "Merry Go 'Round" and "Follow Your Arrow," the 26-year-old critiqued life in small towns like the Texas one she couldn't escape fast enough, and endorsed weed, girl-on-girl kissing and politics one could only describe as liberal. Her strategy, she told a reporter, was "to push buttons [and] scare off the people who are going to be scared off."
There's a touch of retrenchment on her follow-up, Pageant Material. "Maybe for a minute I got too big for my britches," she sings in "Dime Store Cowgirl," a plain account of her last two years. To prove her fealty to Nashville, she mentions Willie Nelson, the rodeo, "my hometown" -- it's just a pickup truck shy of being bro country. For anyone who loved her for being disruptive, it feels like her first dishonest step, an apology to the industry she had blown raspberries at.