I saw something at Billy Bob’s Texas Friday night I’d never noticed before.
I’ve spent close to a decade going to shows at the venerable honky-tonk, so maybe what I saw has been there all along and I’ve just missed it.
But, for whatever reason, the bright purple neon sign, off to the right of the stage, caught my eye: “Rock & Roll Cowgirl.”
It can’t have been a coincidence that rising Nashville star Kacey Musgraves was on stage.
The 26-year-old singer-songwriter made her Billy Bob’s debut Friday, seven months to the day after her sold-out turn at Dallas’ Granada Theater.
She’s still touring behind the same record as she was in October — her Grammy-winning major label debut Same Trailer Different Park — but instead of fatigue, Musgraves and her five-piece, Nudie suit-clad backing band displayed something closer to giddiness. (Perhaps they were on a high from having put handprints in cement for the venue earlier that day.) The set list was fundamentally the same, but the spirit was something altogether different.
The Granada show felt like a confident first step, polished and proficient.
The Billy Bob’s performance kicked things into another gear, demonstrating Musgraves’ ability to charm and captivate what she described from the stage as a “s—load” of people.
“Mom told me not to cuss that much,” Musgraves explained, “but I’m sorry — Billy Bob’s plus sold-out show equals cussing.”
She ran through Park’s highlights — the set-opening Silver Lining; Blowin’ Smoke; It Is What It Is; Follow Your Arrow — and previewed a couple cuts from her forthcoming Pageant Material (which Musgraves said was due out June 26), including High Time and the peppy anthem Biscuits. (She also doled out the familiar covers of TLC’s No Scrubs and Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.)
But it was Musgraves’ rendition of Merry Go ‘Round, co-written with fellow Texan Shane McAnally (who was in attendance Friday), that elevated the night from momentous to memorable.
As she began the song, Musgraves alluded to touring the world and performing the song far afield from where she first wrote it: “I realized it wasn’t just about life in east Texas, but about life everywhere.”
That universality informs the simple, sharply observed lyrics — “Same hurt in every heart/Same trailer, different park” — and marks Musgraves as yet another singular Texas talent with the ability to make the mundanities of small town life resonate well beyond the state’s borders. Follow Your Arrow may have brought Musgraves fame, but it’s Merry Go ‘Round she’ll be remembered for.
Standing inside Billy Bob’s, a capacity crowd often singing back the lyrics with palpable gusto, it was possible to see Musgraves anew — a rock ‘n roll cowgirl, making country music on her own terms, and blossoming into a superstar in the process.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713