Before we head into Thanksgiving, it seemed appropriate to talk about the debut album by Kacey Musgraves. First, because Musgraves sings about her family and humble beginnings quite a bit on Same Trailer Different Park, while “Merry Go ‘Round” stands (in true Kacey fashion) as a disarmingly funny/sad depiction of an All-American fucked up family. Then there’s the fact that Musgraves is releasing a Christmas special on Amazon this Black Friday. It’s been quite meteoric how she’s made a steady transition from the country music world to widespread cultural likeability, but Same Trailer Different Park already hints at what would make her a crossover country star well-suited for the 2010s.
The most obvious example would be “Follow Your Arrow”, a song that could be interpreted as an LGBTQ anthem, a pro-drugs anthem, or just an anthem railing against traditional expectations of what you should do or who you should be. Yet it’s not really a protest song. It’s delivered in Musgraves’s signature swooning, laidback style, but with a subtle bite to it. It’s the kind of song that might feel corny if it was released nowadays, but considering it was released a few years before “woke-ness” had become commodified and commercialized, it instead hits just the right spot.
The rest of the album similarly sees Kacey delivering songs that ride the line between downbeat country ballads and low-key pop songs. It’s not surprising that Musgraves had been writing and performing since she was a teenager, as despite being only 24 at the time of this album’s release, she sounds very assured as a songwriter. Even here, she always seems equipped with a sharp zinger coupled with an equally self-effacing lyric reflecting her uncertainty about the world. She was still a little ways away from the stunning emotional clarity of 2018’s Golden Hour, but by following her arrow, she was already well on her way.