As a country music fan, you had to sit back with a mild smirk as places like Variety and Whiskey Riff got all hot and bothered by the idea that Kacey Musgraves would be making some grand return to country with her next album. Don’t get it wrong, it would be great if Kacey Musgraves made another country album, and who knows, her new album Deeper Well out March 15th might be that.
But the title track gives you little or no hope for the great Kacey Musgraves comeback to kitschy country and quality songwriting that made her one of the most interesting women of mainstream country in the 2010s.
Musgraves shouldn’t be asked to make the same album twice or a similar ones to her award-winning albums of the past. She should be allowed to grow as an artist. But despite the rhetoric surrounding the album Deeper Well, the song “Deeper Well” feels like the same soft and pallid expressions adorning uninspired, aloof writing that so quickly blends into the background, just like most of Kacey’s last album, 2021’s disappointing Star-Crossed.
Though the fingerpicked acoustic guitar at the beginning of “Deeper Well” gets you a little excited for whats to come, it’s the doubled up vocal signals and the watery keys part that immediately imparts concern that the same issues that plagued Star-Crossed will beset the new one too, namely the production.
Once again indie rock dudes Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk aren’t just credited as producers on the track, but writers as well. This troika got lucky with a few songs on 2018’s Golden Hour, they swung and missed on Star-Crossed, and now once again we get to witness indie rock interlopers de-fanging a country woman, and turning her music into indistinguishable “Americana.”
Instead of a return to country like was being buzzed about, Musgraves adopts a Greenwich Village folk motif of classical guitars and dressing like an English goat farm lass in the “Deeper Well” video. She recorded and wrote most of the new album at the Electric Lady studios made famous by Jimi Hendrix. “I was seeking some different environmental energy, and Electric Lady has the best mojo. Great ghosts,” Musgraves says.
Similar woo woo language appears in the song “Deeper Well” itself, with Musgraves referencing the Saturn Return of her horoscope and the “dark energy” of a lover she’s moved on from. Once again she also cites the lameness of her upbringing in small town Texas near the end of the song—a recurring theme in her music.
Another recurring theme is Kacey’s marijuana references, but few distinguishing listeners care to hear about her gravity bong or her “wake and bake” routine. Certain media outlets will line up to praise Musgraves for her edgy lyricism by bringing such themes to country, but it’s been over a decade since “Follow Your Arrow,” and nearly 55 years since “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” You pot references are passe at best.
With Kacey’s recent collaborations with Zach Bryan and Noah Kahan, she’s clearly trying to rekindle the kind of mainstream, cross-genre success she had with Golden Hour, and spies folk as the new fortuitous direction popular music is taking. But it was the powerful, emotional-laden lyricism and bold soundcscapes created on her early albums that distinguished her from the crowd. Perhaps Deeper Well will have that in store as well. But the song “Deeper Well” doesn’t.
The song isn’t as much bad as it is immediately forgettable. And right now in music, forgettable is a worse position to be in than bad. Just ask Jason Aldean.
Let’s hope for more from the album itself.