Kacey Musgraves 2024
Photo: Kelly Christine Sutton / BTPR

Kacey Musgraves Returns to Her Roots on ‘Deeper Well’

Kacey Musgraves, like all of us, is just trying to learn how to sway in the face of life’s challenges, and she chooses to gift them to us in the form of songs.

Deeper Well
Kacey Musgraves
MCA Nashville / Interscope
15 March 2024

“I’m sayin’ goodbye to the people / That I feel are real good at wastin’ my time,” sings Kacey Musgraves on the title track to her sixth studio album, Deeper Well. “No regrets, baby, I just think that maybe / You go your way, and I’ll go mine.”

Taken at face value, the song reads as a kind of sequel to “Slow Burn”, the opening track of Musgraves’ largely successful fourth LP Golden Hour, which won her the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. This, in turn, marks a return of the folksy, down-home version of Kacey Musgraves that listeners, even outside country music fandom, have come to know and love.

As a result of the mainstream success that Golden Hour achieved, Musgraves’ last record, Star-Crossed, was much more pop-focused. Expectations for that LP were also immeasurably high, given the universal acclaim of its predecessor as well as to deliver a quintessential “divorce album”. If Star-Crossed dwelled a little too much in ennui and conventional production, Deeper Well has reinforced the central thesis statement for the singer’s discography: block out negativity, dream a lot, and—much like the Owens sisters in the beloved film Practical Magic—fall in love as often as you can.

While Deeper Well can be listened to as a companion to Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves isn’t necessarily trying to recreate its magic formula. Instead, the singer has grown significantly as a musician and lyricist over the last six years. Musgraves is doing what she does best: seeing herself and the world as constantly being in flux and trying to examine her place within it. “I was in a weird place, then I saw the right face / And the stars and the planets lined up,” she proclaims on “The Architect”, one of the best songs in her catalogue. “Does it happen by chance? Is it all happenstance? Do we have any say in this mess?”

Unlike Star-Crossed, every song on Deeper Well is sonically similar while managing to be different from the last. The album opens with Musgraves’ signature country folk on “Cardinal”, where tracks like “Moving Out” and “Giver / Taker” are more of a soft rock variety. “Dinner With Friends” and “Heart of the Woods” are the lyrical equivalent of catching up with old friends, elder companions whose lives might have changed since you saw them last, but deep down, they always remain the same.

Perhaps that’s the vast appeal of Kacey Musgraves’ work. Even on her unabashedly country debut record, Same Trailer, Different Park, the artist was never just a Nashville transplant looking to be country music radio’s next puppet. She separated herself very early on from the conservative politics of the American country genre, with her psychedelic fashion style, lyrics, and stage presence eventually leading her to become an icon of the LGBTQ+ community.

Six albums later, Musgraves is still growing and changing while managing to share the best parts of herself through music. Deeper Well is a dreamy escape from the realities of a capitalistic society that prioritizes profit and output over inner peace and mental health. “Show me a place I can just think of nothing,” she ponders on “Sway”, another highlight. “If I surrender, if I let go, will you hold me?” Kacey Musgraves, like all of us, is just trying to learn how to sway in the face of life’s challenges, and she chooses to gift them to us in the form of songs.

RATING 8 / 10