“Let’s put a little more in your glass
Walk around and spend all our cash
Just let me grab my poncho, I don’t care where we go
If we speak the language you know we don’t even have to come back

We can’t do it over
They say it’s now or never and all we’re ever gettin’ is older
Before we get to heaven, baby let’s give ’em hell
We might as well
Cause we don’t know when we’re done
So let’s love hard, live fast, die fun.

~Die Fun,
Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material 

In what appears to be a few short years Kacey Musgraves has gone from a fresh-on-the-scene country star to one of the most interesting, promising female songwriters of this era — in my estimation, at least. Her latest album “Pageant Material” is one that has steadily grown on me over the past few months – from a few cursory listens to singles that caught my ear, to listening through the album a few times through headphones. What I hear is not the standard country-girl songwriter that Musgraves, at firsts glance, appears to be, but rather a storyteller sharing her perspective of her upbringing, her opportunities, her growth, with as much honesty and wit as one can muster.

She’s legitimately funny, which is something that is so hard to do in lyrics. But in her blunt, quiet way, Musgraves shares a perspective that is patient as much as it is eyes-wide-open, and with that comes a sense of humor. Musically, these aren’t exactly country radio primetime, in the way Maddie and Tae or Kelsey Ballerini have secured for the time being, but I think they’re more elevated than that – there’s quintessential lap steel, more than a few whistling and handclaps for a honky-tonk vibe, and some really beautiful falsetto moments. “Pageant Material” is a collection of songs that are all well-composed individually, but ones that stand together stronger. A chorus as tongue-in-cheek as “Biscuits” rings a little more true and honest followed by the serious wondering about self-doubt and self-love in “Somebody to Love.”

The thoughtfulness behind a call to a life-well-lived “Die Fun” is dualy noted, as is the occasional unfortunate truths that we feel about our loved ones outlined in “Family is Family.” But what strikes me as most unusual, and unique, and worth celebrating about “Pageant Material” is how Musgraves chooses to focus on so many other topics beyond the standard fare romance of a country song. Not that she can’t write a love song – “Late to the Party” was instantly one of my favorite tracks – but she tackles so many other realms of thought and feeling, ones that speak to finding her place in the world as an adult and a woman and a person of many persuasians, rather than as simply a woman who is looking to love and be loved.

Once during a music class in my junior year of high school, a teacher asked us what most music was about. The answer, written on the white board in blue marker, was “Love.” That’s what sells records, Mrs.Hamilton told us. And she wasn’t wrong, that’s what pulls at our soul the most, those are the feelings with struggle with the most….but there is so much more to us than that, and so much there for artists to explore. With “Good Ol’ Boys Club” and the title track, Musgraves stakes her claim as an intelligent writer, an observant citizen of our modern age, and a damn wry lyricist.  But throughout the record, she doesn’t run from matters of love and companionship. Rather, she puts them in context of a life as colorful, adventurous and open-minded as she frames herself to be.

“Been missing my roots
I’m getting rid of the flash
Nobody needs a thousand-dollar suit just to take out the trash
Ain’t gotta be alone to feel lonely
I’m gonna turn off my phone, start catching up with the old me

It’s high time
To slow my roll
Let the grass just grow and lean way back
It’s a fine time
To let it it all go
I’ve been too low, so it’s high time.”

~High Time
Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material