Things you should know about Kacey Musgraves: she’s an up and coming country music star from the US; her debut album, Same Trailer, Different Park, is chockfull of music and melodies and stories and finely tuned moments that – irrespective of whether you like country music per se – you’ll more than likely find yourself (despite yourself) humming, tapping and/or singing along; and Kacey herself is what some people might be inclined to call purty. All of these things help to explain the strange mix of an audience that fills the Manchester Ritz to the rafters – from young starry-eyed teens who fancy themselves Kaceys in waiting to the thick gang of overweight men in their forties and fifties (who, you know, didn’t mind accompanying their little women to see – what was her name again?) – all of whom seem to know every word to every song. Even the cover versions.
Kacey herself is a consummate professional: she makes her way through the highlights of the album – ‘Silver Lining’, ‘Stupid’, ‘I Miss You’, ‘Blowin’ Smoke’ – intercut with cover versions (a quarter of Musgraves’ set is cover versions) and the odd new songs, banter as smooth as Simon Cowell’s forehead (‘Y’all a crazy!’, ‘Thanks Manchester!’, ‘Y’all are sure looking beautiful tonight’). But the authenticity she brings to bear on her album, where she tells stories with a real sense of the power of both the words she chooses and the way she sings them, quickly loses its sheen. There is something a bit insincere, a bit Vegas, a bit X Factor, in her smiles and nods and winks. What’s more, the cover versions themselves are, for the most part, anodyne as all hell – Kacey does Dolly on ‘Here You Come Again’, Kacey does TLC on ‘No Scrubs’ (‘does Manchester have any scrubs, y’all?’) and, most bizarrely of all, Kacey does Bob Marley on ‘Three Little Birds’ (we’ll draw a polite veil over Kacey does Roy Rogers on ‘Happy Trails’).
No doubt Kacey is going to be an enormous star. No doubt. At some point in the next few months or the next couple of years, she’ll write herself a breakthrough hit that either makes her the next Shania Twain or the next Katy Perry (she could go either way). Right now, she certainly gives the majority of the audience what they want. But she could be better than she wants to be. She could be interesting. But to be interesting, she’d need to relax her grip on the band (give them the space they need to improvise a little, rock out now and then, breathe), maybe cut down on the cover versions (although, yes, we’d love to hear her take on Springsteen’s ‘You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)’) – and maybe, just maybe, dispense with some of the ‘Y’all’s in favour of a few genuine anecdotes about what it’s like to be Kacey Musgraves.