Artist: Margo Price
Album: Midwest Farmer's Daughter
Label: Third Man
Release Date: 03/25/2016
It’s very tempting, but perhaps presumptuous to suggest that Margo Price may shift from Americana singer into a mainstream country star along the lines of Chris Stapleton (I know I’m not the first writer to think it). Nonetheless, she makes a strong, convincing statement on this, her solo debut; this is a tough, badass woman we’re learning about. We knew she had the vocal chops from her decade long role as front woman for the roots band Buffalo Clover, and on this album we hear several autobiographical tales, enough to know that she’s had a tough life and possesses a determined will to succeed. Price and her husband apparently sold their car to fund the record, cut it at Sun Studios, and went on a frustrating label shopping expedition before landing with Jack White’s imprint, Third Man. This is his first country release on this label. (Apparently the 2004 album with Loretta Lynn falls into a different category.)
The opening “Hands of Time” tells Margo’s life story, starting with the heartbreak of her father losing the family farm when she was three years old, and her determination to buy it back through hard work– to “make something honest with my own two hands.” She hails from a small town in Illinois, hence the album title, but she and her husband (now her bass player as well) have shuttled between Colorado and East Nashville, where they’ve now settled, and where Price has become a well-known figure. While Buffalo Clover never really caught on nationally, Price may now be finding her long awaited breakthrough. Just listen to her passionate wail on “Tennessee Song” as just one of several examples. She is singing as if her life depends on it.
Price describes her sound this way, “As for the new stuff, I mean it’s country music – there’s pedal steel, there’s fiddle, there’s all these thing that make country music –but I would like to think we are re-inventing it in a way.” She’s not shy and she doesn’t mince words. Her controlled rage is on full display in “Since You Put Me Down,” with the memorable chorus, “I killed the angel on my shoulder with a bottle of tequila.” The similarly themed “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” has already received a fair amount of air play as a single, and that will likely continue. Whether mainstream country is ready for her is anyone’s guess, but regardless, her ballsy, take-no-prisoners approach will surely draw attention. She certainly has mine.