She’s built her the career the right way – solid work. Turning up. Putting it down. Self-released albums and loads of shows. And then – in her “official” catalogue there are no duds; each album improving on the one previous. Her strong debut, Same Trailer Different Park is still worthy of time and attention and Pageant Material is great too but Golden Hour is just a huge step up – the writing, the voice, the production; all of it so sublime.
I’m taken back to when the Dixie Chicks were at their very best, add in elements of Dawn Landes and Laura Cantrell, and there’s something profound in the way this sound effortlessly rides right through the middle of both country and pop, no worry about perception, no weighing up – just tunes that combine the best elements of both.
Musgraves’ voice is pure and the melodies are strong and there instantly hummable hooks across the opening brace of Slow Burn and Lonely Weekend. This is no slow burn of a record, we’re right in, straight away, ace production and a charming collection of songs. A little throwback to 70s country-pop with Butterflies, a big deep ballad with Oh, What a World.
Put simply, the record just alternates between heartbreak and happiness – but again there’s no real worry about how this has been divided, these are just the things on her mind to sing about.
Ian Fitchuk’s production is wonderful – incorporating interesting synth treatments (Oh, What A World feels a bit like a country version of ELO) and all of the usual trappings too: steel guitars, banjos…
But when it comes to it – as on a song like Mother – all it takes is Musgraves’ voice and a loan piano, it’s a slip of a song, almost only a refrain, and yet it says more than many songs on many other albums.
Love Is A Wild Thing feels like Laura Cantrell or Patty Griffin – it has an overall sonic that’s reminiscent of last year’s winning case / lang / veirs collaboration.
And when she sings Happy & Sad you realise how clever Musgraves is – she knows exactly what she’s doing, what she’s trying to achieve, the album almost plays out as a commentary in and of itself while it’s happening.
You can kick your heels off to High Horse, sing into the empty wine bottle in time with the title track and come up for air just in time for the closing Rainbow. In short, Golden Hour plays out like a greatest hits.
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