Overall, though Ashley Monroe’s Like a Rose – a like-minded album released just two weeks prior – is easier to sit through (mostly on account of being almost ten minutes shorter) and features a tighter backing band, Same Trailer Different Park is better. Kacey Musgrave’s songs are practically (and sadly) revolutionary in today’s music because they’re about real people (instead of imaginary ones or instead of objects), whereas Ashley Monroe’s songs are about herself; compare the lack of personal inclusion in the choruses of “Merry Go Round” to the first person narration of the similarly-themed first verse of “Like a Rose.”
If you want more proof and if you have reservations about country or more specifically, country pop, go listen to “Follow Your Arrow” immediately. Wonderfully textured; it’s sounds simple but it’s never sparse, with tambourines joining the percussion in the choruses, pedal steel guitars and backing vocals and whistling filling in empty spaces if the acoustic guitar and Kacey left any behind her trail(er)blazing. While this is country music, sonically-speaking, lyrically it is anything but. Here, Musgraves goes on a tirade against society’s double standards, and she sings them well too: “If you save yourself for marriage, you’re a bore / You don’t save yourself for marriage, you’re a *whore*-able person” (watching the music video, where she rolls her eyes at society on that word was enough to make me realize that I had fallen in love all over again). And the male backing vocals yelling “HEY!” and “YEAH!” punctuating every line in the chorus as if this were a T.I. song lives in that wonderful gray area that’s neither cheesy nor corny, or maybe just the right amount of both. The fact that this song was banned in certain places for explicit references to joints (only if you’d like one) (whereas Miley Cyrus gets away with references to MDNA and cocaine in “We Can’t Stop”) and homosexuality (only “if that’s what you’re into”) is just evidence that not enough has changed.
Sure, Same Trailer Different Park isn’t perfect. “Blowin’ Smoke”’s choruses are a bust, though its verses might be the album’s best (“Between the lunch and dinner rush / Kelly caught that outbound bus for Vegas / We’re all out here talking trash, making bets / Lips wrapped around our cigarettes / She always thought she was too good to be a waitress”) while “Step Off” – a sunnily sung “fuck you” to no one in particular – suffers the exact opposite; the 2-minute romp and stomp of “Stupid” isn’t all that necessary; “My House”’s climax could have been more fleshed out instead of repeating the stripped away nature of “Silver Lining”’s bridge. But none of those are outright bad, and the same can’t be said about Like a Rose’s lows, and there’s more than enough here to make up for them. In most of these songs, you’re going to get smart lyrics that are well-sung. On opener “Silver Lining,” Kacey rallies – urges – you to realize that sitting around waiting for something likely isn’t going to make it so. Her phrasing the melodies in the choruses of “Dandelion” and verses of “I Miss You” are lovely, and the former has the album’s best textures, again, out of the simplest things, a single stroke on the cello or a just one or two notes on the keyboard.
Yet for all my and everyone else’s talk about how good Kacey Musgraves is in her critique of small town myopia, two of the best songs on Same Trailer Different Park are personal fights, “Keep It to Yourself” and “It Is What It Is.” The former oozes confidence despite the urge to reconnect with someone who has just broken your heart, with the fleet-footed instrumentation aurally capturing the early lines, “It’s the drip of the sink / It’s the click of the clock.” The latter is even better, the album’s sparsest song to let Kacey Musgraves sing the tragedy of modern couples who need sex but want love, where people connect because there’s nothing better to do (“Maybe I love you, maybe I’m just kind of bored”), not for the right reasons.