Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kacey Musgraves

  • Same Trailer Different Park [Mercury, 2013] A-
  • Pageant Material [Mercury, 2015] *
  • A Very Kacey Christmas [Mercury Nashville, 2016] **
  • Golden Hour [MCA Nashville, 2018] B+
  • Star-Crossed [MCA Nashville/Interscope, 2021] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Same Trailer Different Park [Mercury, 2013]
Far be it from me to tear down the finest lyricist to rise up out of conscious country since Miranda Lambert, if not Bobby Pinson himself. But "Merry Go 'Round"--which I liked, year-ended, whole thing--was epochal only by the standards of country radio, which is to say of pusillanimity itself. Already I've gotten to where I can't take the homilies of the lead "Silver Lining," where I see that her label bio proudly quotes the same quatrain that made me go yuck--"If you wanna find the honey/You can't be scared of the bees [OK so far]/If you want to see the forest/You're gonna have to look past the trees [oy]." "Dandelion"? "I Miss You"? Does "pat" mean anything to you? "Precious"? "Pert"? I like the trailer song and love the smoking in Vegas song and am impressed by how strong she closes, four quite distinct tracks climaxing with one in which her homilies risk a tolerance her target market could find intolerable that's topped by "It Is What It Is," in which she screws a guy because no better option is currently presenting itself. But someone up there is telling her she'd better play it safe, and it could be her. A-

Pageant Material [Mercury, 2015]
Nice girl makes nicer--uh-oh ("Family Is Family," "Late to the Party") *

A Very Kacey Christmas [Mercury Nashville, 2016]
Amid many welcome reminders that Christmas is mostly for kids, a few--thank you Jesus--that it isn't just for white people("I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," "Feliz Navidad") **

Golden Hour [MCA Nashville, 2018]
Product of Nashville though it may be, this is a pop record straight up, marked throughout by song-doctoring overseers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, who score cowrites on most tracks, play keyboards, drums, and such on every one, and go all but unnamed in its raft of raves. I mean "pop" as an observation, not a criticism. Tashian's modest piano parts complement Musgraves's delicate soprano and positive mood more subtly than any pedal steel could; the sound-setting "Slow Burn," about taking all night, and the LSD-fueled "Mother," about "bursting with empathy" as you miss her and miss her some more, are triumphs of the pop imagination by any measure. So in the rock era's biggest yet quietest year of the woman to date, this team has figured out how to make quiet sell. If its quiet never breaks on through to the other side, that's not only deliberate but one reason so many are raving and buying. But it's also why I'm not altogether sold myself. B+

Star-Crossed [MCA Nashville/Interscope, 2021]
"This hookup scene ain't all that it's cracked up to be," she reflects quietly--too quietly, in fact, so here's hoping that by next time she's found somebody to make some noise about ("Camera Roll," "Good Wife") **