Photos by Steven Sandick
Kacey Musgraves brought her Country & Western Rhinestone Revue to the overwhelmingly sold-out crowd at the Starland Ballroom, in Sayreville, NJ, and when she walked out on stage she cried out “I know we broke the fire marshal’s code tonight!” She said “I barely get airplay on Top 40 Country radio,” yet the entire crowd belted out every lyric to every song. Quite possibly her celebrity started during her stint on TV’s Nashville Star’s seventh season, or maybe it’s been her multiple nominations and wins at the Grammys and CMA awards (Best Album, Best Song, Best Video, Best New Artist, Best Female Vocalist, etc.). Musgraves was featured in Elmore‘s May/June 2014 cover story, “Young, Female and Country.”
The stage was set with shimmering pink curtains and her band wore pink light-up suits reminiscent of an old cowboy TV show. In “Pageant Material,” the show’s opener, Musgraves states “There’s no way you’ll ever see her in a swimsuit on a stage,” then points out that she was wearing little more than a sequined one-piece petticoat. Coming from a small Texas town, she has small-town sensibilities. At first glance you’re reminded of the cattiness of Jeanie C. Reilly’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” In reality, her topics go well beyond the city limit sign. Homosexuality acceptance, in “Follow Your Arrow,” Mom’s addiction to Mary Kay in “Merry Go Round” talks about brother’s hooked on Mary Jane, while Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.” Other topics include religion, marijuana use, drinking, infidelity etc. All in all her lyrics deal with acceptance of your fellow neighbors and minding your own business, as in “Biscuits” and life will be gravy. She then told the audience of the history behind “Dime Store Cowgirl.” When she was 12 or so, a woman told her that her cowboy hat made her look like a “dime store cowgirl.” She told the crowd she had no idea what it meant. Years later she wrote the song.
Her 90 minutes set was a pure country gem, weaving between her albums Same Trailer, Different Park and her latest, Pageant Material. She also included several covers, including Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (which Musgraves co-wrote), Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin” and the ultimate “Dale Evans” cowgirl fare-thee-well song, “Happy Trails.”
This songwriter tells real stories about real life topics that folks can relate to. Whether or not Top 40 country radio can deal with her subject matter has yet to be seen, and, frankly, doesn’t matter. Kacey Musgrave’s already a star.