An eye on Americana and country releases

Kacey Musgrave’s debut album is “Same Trailer Different Park” (Mercury records) and it’s garnered some notice for its quirky, often humorous, take on some of the platitudes in frequent use in the course of daily life and upending the template for the usual tropes of country music.

And, when called for she can up the ante on smoking this or that and encouraging you to follow your arrow wherever it may lead you. This pointedness has led to some very positive critical reviews — NPR named her Best New Artist.

Then there’s Brandy Clark’s “12 Stories” (Slate Creek Records) which is populated by character-driven narrative tunes in which her primarily female narrators might both pray to Jesus and, just in case, get those lottery tickets; or while rolling joints at the kitchen table ponder whether ending up wearing orange might not be worth knocking of that cheating spouse.

She’s referred to her music as a kind of dark comedy, and that seems apt for these literate vignettes that are very much in the tradition of another singer-songwriter, Guy Clark.

Speaking of Guy Clark, Ashely Monroe’s “Like A Rose” (Warner Music Nashville) contains a great song, the title track, co-written with Clark. Monroe is a little more in the center of the Nashville music twang tradition.

But this is not meant as belittling, rather just a statement of where her well-articulated musical sentiments lie—meaning that most of the staples of country are here despair, hope, heartbreak and a shot of booze, although she might prefer “weed instead of roses.”

And they are contemporary sentiments nicely delivered in a traditional pure country voice.

“The Stand In” (ATO Records) by Caitlin Rose is another example of gifted singer-songwriter storytelling, Drawing upon sources as diverse as Las Vegas’ wedding chapels and Joan Didion essays, she takes on the task of interpreting lives, real (perhaps) and imagined.

Singing from the crossroads of country and rock-pop, she finds roulette wheels spinning, bars burning down, notices the world’s been at an end since no one can remember when and finds herself ending up just calling old numbers. There’s pedal steel and some hints of Patsy Cline and Linda Ronstadt as influences, but these are definitely songs for a new century.

Coming up in January will be a show definitely worth catching. Pianist Lynne Arriale, vocalist Carla Cook and saxophonist Grace Kelly will present “You Know How I Feel” — a musical tribute to the songs of Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Abby Lincoln.

More on this show in the coming weeks.

Kirk Robertson covers the arts. He may be contacted at


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