Last month, Texas singer Kacey Musgraves was the surprise winner of the Grammy for album of the year, the biggest award in popular music. On Friday night, she celebrated at the Bomb Factory before a capacity crowd that included friends and family from Golden, the Piney Woods town she grew up in.
"It feels so damn good to be home!" Musgraves said, as her grandmother stood and cheered in the balcony.
If the show was a joyous victory lap, it was also a reminder of the conundrum Musgraves faces about just how far she should stray from her country roots.
She performed all 13 songs on Golden Hour, her fourth and most eclectic studio album and winner of the best album Grammy. She rarely stuck to country on the new songs, venturing into Hawaiian sounds in "High Time," Broadway piano balladry in "Rainbow" and throbbing dance-pop in the show-closing "High Horse." One of the show's high points came during her lively cover of Selena's Latin-reggae song "Como La Flor."
But as she moved further from country, she often wound up in the middle of the road, like a soft rock Taylor Swift. Later, when she shifted 180 degrees back to her honky-tonk romp "Family is Family," the contrast couldn't have been any starker: Forgettable light rock vs. unfiltered country.
No matter what style she sang, she got expert backing from her versatile six-man band, who jumped seamlessly from cello-laced folk songs to R&B grooves to psychedelic guitar. For a singer with a small, subtle voice like Musgrave's, the band was pivotal.
She started the show on a reserved note, standing still and letting her sparkly boots and bright yellow dress grab the spotlight. Eventually, she grew more animated as she talked about love, marriage and whatever else popped into her head. After wishing fans a happy International Women's Day, she said "Like we even need a [expletive] day."
Musgraves has never been afraid to drop the F bomb or speak her mind, as she showed fans with her pro-gay, pro-pot oldie "Follow Your Arrow." She's a songwriter who embraces the offbeat and refuses to romanticize small-town life in "Merry Go 'Round," a tale of boredom and dead-end dreams which she said she wrote about Golden.
"It's a tiny East Texas town, and even though I wrote it about where I'm from, I know it's about where you're from, too," she said. Sure enough, fans sang along to every word, as if Musgraves had borrowed a page from their very own diaries.