When: Fri., July 10, 3 p.m. 2015
When it comes to mainstream country music, artists who take even moderately progressive stances are often judged as radical. Certainly Kacey Musgraves has been analyzed that way since breaking out with her impressive 2013 debut, Same Trailer Different Park. Her social libertarianism was refreshing and bold compared to the Nashville competition, especially when woven into original tunes that embraced a 70s sound rather than the hyperactive, rock-charged template of today. She sticks to the script on her new Pageant Material (Mercury), which sharpens the neo-countrypolitan model with irresistible melodies and fantastic pedal-steel lines from Paul Franklin. Tracks espouse minding one’s business (or as Musgraves might put it, “Mind your own biscuits and your world will be gravy”), retaining humility, and criticizing artificiality. For instance, on the hooky title track she excoriates gendered expectations, particularly the privileging of beauty over brains, before concluding, “I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t.” On “This Town” she invokes the sound of Bobbie Gentry, sarcastically asserting that “we all look out for each other” after detailing the suffocating lack of privacy in small-town living. While the album’s a bit mushy musically, the songs at its center convey a surprising existential ennui, but she wipes that away with witty, old-fashioned appreciation of family (“They might smoke like chimneys / But give you their kidneys”). As if trying to reinforce her musical compass, she closes the album with a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Are You Sure,” with Nelson joining in on the chorus. —Peter Margasak 8 PM set time.
Price: $40 per day, $99.50 three-day pass