Quantcast
BLURRED LINES: KACEY MUSGRAVES’ GOLDEN HOUR
Musgraves creates a space that merges her roots with something ethereal, shimmering and new

Since emerging with the small-town skewering/Grammy-winning “Merry Go Round” in 2013, Kacey Musgraves has come off as country music’s hippie-trippy innocent, unfettered and free from constraints. From the diner waitresses of Same Trailer Different Park’s “Blowin’ Smoke” to the inherent dysfunction of Pageant Material’s “Family Is Family”—the Mineola, Texas, native has conjured a slightly busted, true-to-the-heart take stretched across a minimal sort of classic country that fell somewhere between Laurel Canyon and Lone Star ice houses.

In many ways, that Musgraves still inhabits her third album. But with true creatives from Beck to Beyoncé, growth must occur. As she coos on the glistening “Slow Burn,” Golden Hour’s opener, “In Tennessee, the sun’s goin’ down/But in Beijing, they’re heading out to work.” This strangely global thought, delivered over a loosely strummed acoustic guitar, a banjo plink that could be mined from Neil Young’s “Love Is a Rose” and ascending, ether-light backing vocals, gives Golden Hour its particular, peculiar euphoria.

Whatever the shift, there’s also the reassurance of what was—until the Daft Punk-like disembodied vocals and lean disco track that kick off “Oh What a World” signal that we’re not in Kansas—or even East Nashville—anymore. And Musgraves shines; she creates a space that merges her roots with something ethereal, shimmering and new. Even her voice seems weightless as she mulls over the topple into love, doubts, surrender and the notion of happily ever after.

Not that the girl whose grandma cried when Musgraves pierced her nose, as she notes in “Slow Burn,” has gone sticky-sweet. She will stretch a real-life romantic metaphor across “Wonder Woman,” offer a piss-off to a John Wayne sort who buzzkills on the bubbling disco nugget “High Horse,” drift through the silky Zen end-of-relationship “Space Cowboy” or sling an Elvis ’n’ Priscilla metaphor across the Bruno Mars-feeling shuffle “Velvet Elvis.”

It’s downright vexing how seamlessly Musgraves blurs the lines between Europop, Americana basics, disco and heaven knows what else. Just as she’s traded her reporter’s take on small-town existence for a more personal view of life, she’s also made her singular twists something that mirrors our own individual journeys.

“Happy & Sad,” more than a straight love song, considers her foibles in the reassuring glow of a relationship. Measuring the notion of how things fade, she confesses she doesn’t want to lose what she’s got or where she’s at—and fears the inevitable. A song about overthinking, delivered over a tumble of Fender Rhodes clouds with a steel guitar that gleams? Of course. Musgraves manages to balance the emotions with a vocal that echoes the pure soprano catch of early Dolly Parton at her most winsome.

Tellingly, this strikingly progressive album closes with “Rainbow,” a simple church-piano meditation on counting one’s blessings. Evoking Annie’s “Tomorrow,” “Rainbow” serves as a reminder there’s beauty even in the storm—it’s a matter of how you choose to see the world around you.

For Musgraves, who has toured with Katy Perry and Willie Nelson, with Harry Styles next, the world of music comes without borders. Yes, she will always be, as the Pageant Material song suggests, “A Dime Store Cowgirl,” but she is also a young woman intent on seeing what kinds of treasures her songwriting can hold.

With Golden Hour, she emerges willing to consider the emotional nuance. In that, the girl who’s embraced a sense of conscience since the LGBTQ-embracing “Follow Your Arrow” offers a cartographer’s guide to the heart.

APPLE MUSIC'S
YEAR-END LEADERS
Roddy Rich and The Weeknd are streaming kings. (12/3a)
VAUGHN'S FIRST MOVE: MATTERA TO THE TOWER
A company with no corner offices (12/1a)
U.K. MEET THE MANAGERS
Who's hot in Blighty? (12/1a)
RON PERRY: SUPERCHARGING THE BIG RED MACHINE
Hoodie man doin' work (12/2a)
SPOTIFY GIFT-WRAPS
THE YEAR IN MUSIC
How Swede it is. (12/2a)
RAINMAKERS 2020
Bring your umbrella.
GRAMMY OUTLIERS
Mulling possible surprises.
ZOOM THANKSGIVING
We're virtually stuffing ourselves.
TRUMP'S LAWSUITS
He's lost 25 out of 26, and so tired of winning!
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)