Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Blowin’ Smoke’ Is So Much More Than That – Single Review


‘Blowin’ Smoke’ continues where ‘Merry Go Round’ left off,
putting Kacey’s storytelling skills to the test and displaying her penchant for
glaring honesty and creating real small-town characters. This track is from the
point of view of diner waitresses, and the description is image-heavy and
powerful, “we're all out here
talkin' trash, makin' bets, lips wrapped round our cigarettes”. The lyrics
are interesting, narrative-specific and insightful, “Brenda's tradin' smokes for cake, still
hadn't lost that baby weight, and that
baby's 'bout to graduate from college”,
Kacey’s wry smile almost audible through her vocals.

The single
announcement comes as a surprise; at CRS week Kacey debuted ‘Follow Your Arrow’
a chirpy, cheeky, down-to-Earth track about making your own way and not caring
what others think, including a significant stab of support of gay
relationships. All the buzz was about this song and almost every album review
has focused on it, social media gleefully wondering how traditional Nashville
will take such a song and where it will sit at country radio. But perhaps Kacey
and her record label decided to play it safe – for now.

Having said that,
‘Blowin’ Smoke’ is far from a ‘safe’ choice for most artists. It hides behind
nothing. Smoke and mirrors are not Kacey’s style. The lyrics “wipe down the bar, take out the trash,
light one up and count my cash, swear I'm never
comin' back again” probably hit a little too close to home for a huge
number of the population, never mind the real-life versions of the song’s waitresses. It is further proof that Kacey is going to tell the truth no matter how real it
is, and helps her live up to the hype of saving the current mainstream country
scene, full of good ole country boy myths and romanticized southern life. This
is quintessentially country music at its best; no pretences or falsities, just
real, ordinary people. I don’t think that can be emphasized enough. Yes, Kacey is probably making a joke of these women. But she’s laughing at herself too.

Musically the song is full of
dirty guitars, banjo and a driving bassline that you could do more than tap
your foot to. It’s an irresistible beat that only adds to the beauty of it, and
the amateur-feel shouty chorused parts reinforce the narrative perhaps even
more than the background mutter of customers and clangs of plates that is so
instantly meaningful in its setting. Kacey’s vocals have an edge to them here,
but she still doesn’t try to over-sing. Slightly melancholic, and resigned to
the fate of the character, her vocals are punchy and slide between notes,
showcasing her ability to play with tempo. This song is different to much of
country radio, and I am worried no-one will ‘get’ it. But if everyone really
knows a good song when they hear it, well this song is fun, honest, and just a
damn good tune, to sing and dance to. Is it the best song to follow ‘Merry Go
Round’? Maybe not. But it will certainly make you smile.

Maybe I fall into the trap of
lauding Kacey because everyone else is. It’s easy to, after all. But I stand by
my claims. She’s not saving mainstream country on her own, of course not. But
she’s definitely doing her bit, and I for one love it.

You can listen to ‘Blowin’ Smoke’


Posted by Vickye (Guest Writer).
If you want to check out my own blog
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