On ‘Deeper Well,’ Kacey Musgraves Is Closer to Fine

On ‘Deeper Well,’ Kacey Musgraves Is Closer to Fine

But while mainstream country has leaned into booze, trucks and arena-scale bombast, Musgraves prefers delicacy, detail and wryly upending small-town expectations. The title song of her second album, “Pageant Material,” explained: “It ain’t that I don’t care about world peace/But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage.”

Her music prizes understatement, bypassing standard Nashville sounds and often harking back to 1970s Laurel Canyon folk-pop. Like that era’s songwriters and producers, Musgraves is steeped in folk music and seemingly diaristic, but also unassumingly savvy about pop structures and studio possibilities.

On “Star-Crossed,” Musgraves sang about marital pressures, professional jealousy, coping with memories and moving on. The music pushed well beyond country, incorporating surreal electronics and sultry R&B. “Deeper Well” is leaner and less determinedly eclectic. Written and produced with Musgraves’s longtime collaborators, Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, the album spotlights acoustic guitars and organic, seemingly transparent arrangements; every instrument sparkles. While the album was recorded in New York City (at Electric Lady Studios), it’s a world away from urban hubbub; the music always feels pastoral.

Gratitude is at the core of the new songs. Musgraves may be contented, but she’s not complacent. She finds omens in nature in “Cardinal,” the album’s opener, which harks back to the modal folk-rock of the Byrds, complete with 12-string guitar. Seeing a cardinal after the death of a friend, she asks, “Are you bringing me a message from the other side?”

In “Dinner With Friends,” she lists small things that please her — “the way that the sun on my floor makes a pattern of light” — and plants a political barb, appreciating, “My home state of Texas/The sky there, the horses and dogs,” before adding, “But none of their laws.” And in “The Architect,” a crystalline string-band waltz, she marvels at both natural phenomena — an apple, the Grand Canyon — and the miracle of finding a new love, making her ponder the existence of a God: “This life that we make, is it random or fate?” she asks. “Is there an architect?”

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