Sometimes all you need to do to find yourself is take a look inside a Deeper Well.

Release date: March 15, 2024 | MCA Nashville / Interscope Records | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Deeper Well is the sixth studio album by seven time Grammy winning country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves. It’s been a time for introspection and self discovery since Kacey’s last album 2021’s Star-Crossed, over which hung some dark clouds and heartache. The new album comes on the upswing following a turning point in the artist’s career and life. Deeper Well’s intimate cover previews an inviting down-to-earth experience hinting at a verdant and lush atmosphere.

The album hits the ground running with powerful back to back initial tracks. On my first listen I thought she might have jumped the shark a bit early by putting the title track up front as the second song. But after passing back through I found that the strong opening hooks the listener and there’s enough on the back end to keep engaged throughout. “Deeper Well” is certainly one of the standout songs featuring some of the most poignant and confessional lyrics of the album. ‘For a while, it got me by / Everything I did seemed better when I was high / I don’t know why / So, I’m getting rid of the habits that I feel / Are real good at wasting my time’.

“The Architect” is another easy favorite. It’s a lyrical home run bat coupled with a musical accompaniment that is molasses sweet.

‘Even something as small as an apple
It’s simple and somehow complex
Sweet and divine, the perfect design
Can I speak to the architect?
And there’s a canyon that cuts through the desert
Did it get there because of a flood?
Was it devised, or were you surprised
When you saw how grand it was?’

Whereas country music is typically preaching to the converted, I really appreciate how “The Architect” remains agnostic. To the very end the song is asking the question, not making declarations.

Despite a few duds (“Moving Out”, “Dinner with Friends”, and “Heart of the Woods”) Deeper Well is by no means a bad album. However it does suffer from the same problem I have with pop music generally. The albums tend to be a patchwork collection of songs. Some choice cuts are destined to be singles with filler tracks in between lacking any strong theme or sense of cohesion. “Lonely Millionaire” and “Anime Eyes” are just kind of funny silly romps. (“Anime Eyes” also has the unique distinction of containing both one of the best lines ‘A million little stars / Bursting into hearts / In my anime eyes / Made it through the tears / To see a Miyazaki sky’ and easily the worst line on the entire record ‘Angels singing, bells are ringing / Baby, I’m a love tsunami, washing over both our bodies / Sailor Moon’s got nothing on me’). Then there’s this pair of kinda obvious punchlines found on “Too Good to be True” and “Heaven Is”. About half the songs on Deeper Well are about love, but that’s hardly a concept. About half of all pop songs are love songs.

If there isn’t a full blown overarching theme then perhaps the vague subtext of Deeper Well is finding contentment right where you are. Growing into a peace of mind to accompany whatever place along life’s journey you happen to find yourself. A couple of these soul searching undertones are fleshed out on “Sway”: ‘Maybe one day / I’ll learn how to sway / Like a palm tree in the wind / I won’t break, I’ll just bend’. And on the strong closing song “Nothing to be Scared Of”:

‘Holdin’ tight to who you are
Like someone’s gonna take it
Bubble wrap around your heart
Like someone’s gonna break it
Demons in your mirror
Together, we’ll escape them
Come to me and drop your bags
And I’ll help you unpack them’

It might be a bit of a stretch, but the artist this album most reminds me of with its often unguarded stripped down approach is actually Elliott Smith. There is a vein of melancholy under the surface they have in common, if decidedly less extreme in the case of Musgraves. Behind all the glam veneer is a somber quest for answers that aren’t always apparent or final, but reward a satisfaction found in searching. They also share a penchant for simple observational storytelling. Even if it’s only a spiritual comparison it is a welcome one.

Overall Deeper Well is a pretty solid record, I just wish it went a little less wide with slightly more focus. A few misfires and awkward moments aside the highs on this album are really high. “Deeper Well”, “Sway”, and “The Architect” are all soaring barn burners while “Cardinal”, “Giver / Taker”, “Jade Green” and “Nothing to be Scared Of” raise the roof to lofty heights. Kacey’s wordplay and storytelling are as sharp and captivating as ever. She still has plenty of heart and lots of guts confronting fears and overcoming doubts. The instrumentation on this album is fairly sparse and detached, it’s mostly guitar and singing. But Kacey delivers such a strong vocal performance that her singular voice carries Deeper Well above its imperfections.

Artist and cover photos by Kelly Christine Sutton.

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