I've been away from the blog for a while, visiting family and buried under work. In my absence, I have been hooked on Kacey Musgraves' Pageant Material, the follow up to her critical success Same Trailer, Different Park. If Trailer focused on small-town locales over people, Pageant Material is the inverse. Places flavor the songs, but most of the tunes work as melodic, sharp, and catchy character studies, like the excellent "Dime Store Cowgirl," the laid-back relationship sketch"Late to the Party," downer take-down "Miserable," and the title track. Musgraves is as witty as ever, as we hear on the novelty tune "Biscuits," but she can still play it soft, as she does on "Somebody to Love." Pageant Material plays with the old-school sounds and liberal politics of her break-through, but it often bests that excellent record. Musgraves may just take the crown for best album of the year.