Music Matters Review

Kacey Musgraves—Golden Hour
2018, MCA Nashville

The late Glenn Frey celebrated his peaceful easy feelings in song with the Eagles, but the Eagles were also the band that famously decried life in the fast lane and warned about “Hotel California,” where “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” In contrast, Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour will leave you feeling peaceful, and truly at ease. The thirteen songs are filled with a bevy of good vibes, much like a leisurely Sunday drive to grandma’s house, (as opposed to speeding down the highway to check into hell’s hotel).
Musgraves recent romance is most likely the power source behind her current musical vibes. Musgrave extols her new love in the title track. She also expresses optimism. (“I know everything’s gonna be alright.”) Musgraves has been criticized for experimenting with distinctly non-country sounds in her music. “Oh, What A World,” another feeling-good-in-love song, features vocals modified to sound robotic. (I don’t think Loretta Lynn done it this way!) Musgraves gets away with taking these brave sonic liberties because she writes such smart songs and sings with so much sincerity. She may give an aural nod to Daft Punk on the song, but it’s impossible not to become enraptured by her celebration of her happy place.
Musgraves reveals a knack for incorporating familiar cultural signposts to make her songwriting relatable. “Velvet Elvis” alludes to the kitschy roadside artwork; “Wonder Woman” finds her admitting she’s no superhero, and “High Horse” is about informing a guy that he’s no John Wayne.
Not all Golden Hour is giggles and grins. “Lonely Weekend” is about getting through the weekend without the company of friends and family. Musgraves sings of experiencing loneliness, but she’s not lonely. When your life is pretty good overall, a solitary weekend is a mere blip on the radar screen. On the other hand, lonely weekends for the truly lonely are emblematic of a relatively friendless life.
Artists such as Carrie Underwood blow you away with their powerful pipes. The songs are like rockets, created to show off vocal firepower. Not so for Musgraves. She engages with a gentle vocal spirit. Her songs are more akin to wildflowers arranged in an inviting bouquet. And it’s this beauty that contributes to the album’s overall peacefulness. Hers is the voice of comfort. When she tells you “everything’s gonna be alright,” you believe her. This is not a voice that lies.
Peaceful easy feelings are getting harder and harder to come by these days. But when you’re able to love and be loved, and sing about it with Musgraves’ gentle integrity, well, let’s just say she won’t let you down.—Dan MacIntosh