December 12, 2018

“A Kiss Full of Color” — Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
An Album Review

Kacey Musgraves’s new album, gorgeous, brilliant, and shimmering, with all the right hooks and atmosphere, may be the best 70s-80s country/pop/folk album I’ve heard since, well, the 70s and 80s.

Many are calling it the pop album of the year.

Golden Hour comes to us, in the words of her song “Butterflies,” as a “kiss full of color.”

Musgraves had her major-label debut in 2013, with Same Trailer Different ParkIt won her critical acclaim and Grammy Awards for Best Country Album and Best Country Song (“Merry Go ’Round”). She also took home CMA Awards for New Artist of the Year and Song of the Year (“Follow Your Arrow”), and an ACM Award for Album of the Year. She followed that up with another Billboard chart-topping effort called Pageant Material.

These solidified her reputation, in the words of one reviewer, “as a serious, smart-assed [woman] songwriter in a masculine musical lineage.” Unfortunately, her strong opinions and millennial sensibilities put her outside the mainstream of Nashville and country radio, described by another commentator as ” the kind of place where women’s contributions are referred to by radio consultants as “tomatoes in a salad” where the men are lettuce.”

There is a country core to the music on this album. Musgraves sings about Texas, horses, and cowboys driving Silverados, with complementary banjo parts and the occasional twang. But these are expertly embedded along with echoes of acoustic Neil Young, Sade, the Bee Gees, psychedelic pop, 80s synth music, and Beck into an seemingly effortless blend as she makes decades of pop genres her own. She has a remarkable sense of 70s and 80s melodic style, and she refers to the sonic textures of this record as “galactic country.” This is Nashville by way of Laurel Canyon with a splash of disco. Her voice is both strong and delicate, carrying understated but country-clever lyrics. Musgraves herself has said

The goal for this record was to sound great when you’re sitting there at 2:00 a.m. thinking about everything. It’s a melting pot of many different influences that have come together. I’ve always loved Sade, but I also love Dolly Parton and traditional country music. I thought there’s got to be a world where all these things can live together harmoniously – a place where futurism meets traditionalism. I still love steel guitar and banjo, but I thought it would be dope if we put that with a vocoder and explored that world.

Reviewers have noted that this album comes at a blissful, serene time in Kacey Musgraves’s life. Last year she left the road, got married, and concentrated on her personal life, and these songs exude a self-confident contentment that may indeed grow out of the season of life in which she finds herself.

One thing is clear. Kacey Musgrave is an enormous talent, and she’s not afraid to grow, adapt, and explore.

What a great, great record.

• • •

Here are a couple of recent performances of songs from Golden Hour:

Comments

  1. My parents listened to a LOT of country when I was a kid. I grew up listening to Alabama, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, and the like. When I struck out on my own, my musical tastes wandered all over the place, from classical chamber music to bagpipe and drum bands, before finally settling down on the pinnacle of musical expression, prog rock. 😉 But somehow I have never been able to go back and fully appreciate country music, except a specific song or so – especially nowadays when so much of the genre functions as a dog whistle for white nationalism. All this to say, I’m glad there are artists within the genre bucking the trend.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “…efore finally settling down on the pinnacle of musical expression, prog rock.”

      King Crimson!

      • Robert F says:

        Rush! 2112!

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        Big Big Train – Folklore is the best Tull album since Heavy Horses and English Electric Full Steam is the best Genesis album since Hackett left.

        The Underfall Yard may just be better that anything either group ever did.

    • john barry says:

      Wonderful talent and great style. I would say to be a commercial success, which does not seem to be a priority to the young lady, she should pick a genre and build her fan base from that. Taylor Swift did country to get her following and then moved on. Kenny Rogers , the first edition of the First Edition of Kenny Roger did it also but he just dropped in.

      Eeyore , I am trying to get CNN to patent the Don Lemon Dog Whistle Headset to pick up on the dog whistle alerts that have become the vogue on CNN. I am probably tone deaf or at least hard of hearing as many times I do not get the dog whistle signal that many do. I did pick up the dog whistle message of Irvin Berlin trying to spread religion with God Bless America and then having the White Nationalist Kate Smith to sing it .

      Why would a Jewish man in the 30’s want God to bless America, that is as crazy as him wishing for a white Christmas. My dog whistle picked up the raw commercialism and cynical tone of these songs right away as I have the Don Lemon Authorized Dog Whistle Headset, not sold where prohibited by law.

      Could someone really believe that someone could be a Doodle, a Dandy and a Yankee coming from a Jewish heritage or was it a dog whistle to the South that they were not Dandy? My Don Lemon Dog Whistle headset will tell me.

      Well, at least it will be Over , Over There and not here. Plus what is so grand about the Old Flag? Another dog whistle trying to confuse people to the truth.

    • How about some examples of this white nationalism?

    • senecagriggs says:

      Eeyore; What’s the difference between an onion and a bagpipe?

      Nobody cries if you cut up a bagpipe. smile

  2. Thanks for bringing Ms. Musgraves to our attention, CM. I especially enjoyed the sweet melancholy of “Slow Burn”. She has her own unique sound but it also brought to mind some of my favorite artists–Shawn Colvin, k.d. lang–in this hard-to-define genre. I’m looking forward to listening to her whole album.

  3. John Barry says:

    The young lady is very talented and unique as well as beautiful. Her talent should propel her but in the world of entertainment today it is hard to gather a following without establishing yourself in a genre. Taylor Swift, who is a brilliant show and business person started out in country , establishing herself and moving on. Kacy should do the same , get your roots down then move on to what you want with your following. Great songs, lovely talent, thanks for the post.

    One of the traits of this site is how a positive , nice little story about a talent like this young lady prompts a comment bringing race relations, white nationalism or whatever into the conversation.

    Eeyore , could you give some examples of the dog whistle of white nationalism that your hear as I am probably tone deaf. thanks, it I am not tone deaf I am certainly hard of hearing. I think CNN should patent the term and have the Don Lemon Dog Whistle to enable people like me to hear what they hear. I guess Irvin Berlin was dog whistling white nationalism when he wrote God Bless America sung by the neo Nazi Kate Smith, then the dog whistle of all time, the dog whistle of them all White Christmas , my goodness couple that with Black Friday and my dog whistle in blaring loud

    • Christiane says:

      “One of the traits of this site is how a positive , nice little story about a talent like this young lady prompts a comment bringing race relations, white nationalism or whatever into the conversation.”

      THIS time, J.B., I’m not guilty. 🙂

      • john barry says:

        Christiane , you are not guilty just outspoken . If you are guilty of anything it would be that your are faithful to your beliefs which is something more should be guilty of. I am only going to post this once so hope it goes though. My favorite James Bond movie was You Only Comment Twice.

        • Robert F says:

          j.b., We can all relax now, the pressure has been lifted — Dennis Rodman is making world peace in Singapore.

          • john barry says:

            Robert F. Now if only Jimmy Carter can rebound in the NBA the world would be perfect. Only thing worst if they made Dennis Rodman Sec. of Treasury, blew though a fortune, he dribbled it out a little, no a lot at a time. Sometimes when I hear D. Rodman speak , I think he is speaking Korean.

        • Christiane says:

          🙂

          Sure I’m outspoken, I was in college when I supported the Poor Peoples March on Washington and I supported an end to the Viet Nam War

          in those days, if you opposed the politicians’s war, you were ‘against the troops’ . . . . . actually, we were FOR the troops . . . too many body bags coming back and my cousin Jack was in one of them . . . bad days, them

          It’s my nature, J.B. . . . . I will ‘outspoke’ til they put me away. It’s better than ‘looking away’ silently. 🙂
          At least I can sleep nights.

          BTW did you hear those Stoneman Douglas kids rock the Tony awards . . . good stuff! Encouraging.

          • John barry says:

            Christiane, I was fully qualified for the Poor Peoples march but was unable to buy a nice pair of walking shoes to attend. The march was a great success as there are no more poor people in America,

            I am waiting for a group of high school kids from the south side of Chicago get a chance to show their concern for being gunned down in their own neighborhood but they are not a good news story. Tony awards real classy and I think that I lower the bar. I remember when FU was a good punch line in the Odd Couple,,, Felix Unger, but now it gets a standard O from the lovers of free speech and Harvey Weinstein until 4 months ago. Glad to hear someone watched the Tony awards aka The Who Cares? Awards.

  4. Smooth. Like the acoustic and some cool chords in Slow Burn. sus4’s or some such.

  5. john barry says:

    I apologize for the two post of the same subject. I did not think my first went though the wire that connects to central nervous system on the inter net. I am not that tech savvy so forgive me as I do not think any of my comments need to be posted twice.

    I asked my wife which of the two comments she liked best, she said neither so I will not try a third. No one has ever said to me “that bears repeating” so I cannot say that my repeating a thought is routine.

    I do not think 3 times is a charm, perhaps you can stutter on the internet.

    However this is worth another third comment, Kacey M. just great and I thank CM for posting the video as I am not allowed to stay up and see SNL even though I love Chevy Chase and the gang, glad they are still on, I knew it would be a hit.

  6. If you have to ask… “Whisky for my Men, Beer for my Horses” is a good place to start.