Kacey Musgraves trades country-pop hooks for deep, folk-y meditation

APNEWS

POSITIVE
Just over a decade ago, Kacey Musgraves emerged as a fresh new voice in country music – a mid-tempo storyteller with an incredible acuity both in her lyrics and in her instrumentation, knowing just when to pick up the harmonica, whistle a tune or break out the vocoder.
1 hit (the sentimental “I Remember Everything,” one of AP’s picks for best of 2023.)
In 2024, it has led to “Deeper Well,” a muted folk record with a warm kind of profundity.
The album opens with the ’60s folk-inspired “Cardinal,” a similar tone to its closer, “Nothing to be Scared Of” – acoustic guitars and Musgraves’ open-hearted narratives delivered through her glassy vocal delivery.
Much of the album follows the format, but with quite a few surprises.
Those looking for capital-C country through Musgraves’ matured folk filter could skip to “The Architect,” a masterful acoustic rumination on a higher power.
“Sometimes I look in the mirror and wish I could make a request/Could I pray it away?
On “Anime Eyes,” Musgraves describes a “Miyazaki sky” and talk-sings her way through a kaleidoscopic, psychedelic detour.
Here, Musgraves is interested in a kind of existential bloodletting, revealing the depths of her thoughts about love and death trickle out in gorgeous-sounding songs with sweet melodies.
It’s a nice change of pace — arguably the best kind — one with some familiarity.

Over ten years ago, Kacey Musgraves became the new face of country music. She was a mid-tempo storyteller with remarkable skill in both songwriting and instrumentation, knowing when to use a vocoder, pick up a harmonica, and whistle a tune.

She’s shown herself to be adaptable over the years and with award-winning albums; most notably, on “High Horse” from 2018’s “Golden Hour,” the romantic release that won her album of the year at the 2019 Grammy Awards; recording in Spanish (“Gracias a la Vida” from 2021’s divorce record, “star-crossed”); and most recently, recording a feature with Zach Bryan, which has become her first No. A single hit (the poignant “I Remember Everything”), which the AP has selected as the finest of 2023. 2024 saw the release of “Deeper Well,” a subdued folk album with a cozy profundity.

The album begins with “Cardinal,” a song with a 1960s folk feel that is reminiscent of “Nothing to be Scared Of,” its closer, with acoustic guitars and Musgraves’ honest stories told through her glassy voice. The album mostly sticks to the plan, though there are a few unexpected moments.

“The Architect,” a superb acoustic meditation on a higher power, is a better listen for those who are searching for capital-C country through Musgraves’ sophisticated folk filter. “Am I moldable clay? Or is this as good as it gets? Sometimes I look in the mirror and wish I could make a request/Could I pray it away?” she sings.

Talk-singing her way through a kaleidoscopic, psychedelic detour, Musgraves describes a “Miyazaki sky” on “Anime Eyes.”. Surprisingly, “Lonely Millionaire” is a near-reimagining of “Kody Blu 31” by Atlanta rapper JID. Really, it’s a weeper, she doesn’t rap, and he got credit for writing the song.

“Deeper Well” is a noticeable progression from “Follow Your Arrow,” the upbeat, country-as-heck LGBT+ hit from Musgraves’ 2013 debut album “Same Trailer Different Park,” for those who have followed her career from the start. Though the spirit remains the same, Musgraves has long pushed the bounds of her early genre, whether it be through touring with Willie Nelson and Katy Perry or ensuring that her co-writers, Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark, took the stage when she won Song of the Year for her first hit in 2014 at the Country Music Awards—the first time two openly gay people stood on the CMA stage for an award. It seems appropriate that she has decided to move the needle in a softer direction in this instance.

As in the fingerpicking title track “Deeper Well,” sometimes that translates to hyper-specific language of the day. “My Saturn has returned/when I turned 27,” she sings, alluding to the well-known astrological allegory that can also be heard on Ariana Grande’s most recent album, “Eternal Sunshine.”. “Everything began to shift; it took some time, but I gained knowledge. One other line, “You’ve got dark energy,” has the feel of a text message rather than a well-crafted song. It also has the potential to become dated as soon as the listener hears it, but it could also be a tool. Here, Musgraves is drawn to a sort of existential bloodletting where her songs have beautiful melodies and stunning sounds that reveal the depths of her thoughts about love and death.

Like in the incredible “Dinner with Friends,” her heartfelt reinterpretation of “The Sound of Music’s” beloved “My Favorite Things,” where Musgraves sings about everything she loves and will miss “from the other side” of life while seated at a piano and an acoustic guitar.

Sweet conversations that last long into the night, “My home state of Texas/The sky there, the horses and dogs/The way that sun on my floor makes a pattern of light,” the song croons. “.

“Deeper Well” is an album that honors her humanity overall while also taking a soft approach. It’s a pleasant, somewhat familiar change of pace, possibly the best kind.

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