Kacey Musgraves, "Pageant Material" (Mercury Nashville)
Kacey Musgraves strives for a classic '60s country sound on her second album, "Pageant Material." Ditching the loops and other contemporary flourishes of her ground-breaking, Grammy-winning 2013 debut, "Same Trailer, Different Park," the native Texan presents carefully arranged tracks focused on steel guitar, orchestrated strings and brushed rhythms.
Lyrically, she shifts from her first album's social statements — same-sex relationships, pot smoking — without dialing down her outspoken nature. This time she uses her lyrical cleverness to delve into the personal observations of a small town southern woman establishing her individuality as she emerges into a faster-moving modern world.
From the romantic scenario of "Late to the Party" to the melodic richness of "High Time," and from the good-time manifesto of "Die Fun" to the refusal to compromise on "Good Ol' Boys Club," Musgraves confirms her emergence as one of Nashville's boldest, most effective artists.
Such new songs as "This Town" and "Fine" position Musgraves as a classic country singer-songwriter extending the work of Roger Miller and Willie Nelson. The only thing controversial about "Pageant Material" is how stridently it seeks to express a distinctive style of its own rather than fit into any contemporary formulas.