Margo Price is another of those hip country ladies making a noise in Nashville, and with good reason: the stories she tells on Midwest Farmer’s Daughter are backed up by wholesome tunes that stand up to repeated listens.
Coming out on the independent Third Man label, which is better known for putting out Jack White’s blues-rock statements, Price realises that most of the record (she told Rolling Stone) ‘is me giving the finger to the music business’. Recorded in the glorious Sun Studios in Memphis (yes, the Elvis and Johnny Cash mecca), all sales will benefit her five-year-old son, whose life should be happier than her own, as the album documents.
Hands of Time starts with a groove like that of The Band and the line ‘when I rolled out of town…I was $57 from being broke’. It’s another one of those ‘girl done good’ stories, which traces the steps of those years of toil, ‘running with the men, but the men they brought me problems’ and praying to the Lord for sustenance. How very country. ‘All I wanna do is make something last, but I can’t see the future, I can’t change the past… Turn back the clock on the cruel hands of time.’ That’s just side one, track one everybody.
The other ten tunes plough the country furrow, with added pedal steel, fiddle (or what sounds like an orchestra of them at some points) and harmonica, the last of these provided by Mr Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey. Tennessee Song and How The Mighty Have Fallen are brilliant, with strong melodies and rhythms, and guitar lines that recall the sound of the great country-rockers of the 1970s: Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and, whisper it softly, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn too.
Since You Put Me Down has Price drinking because she’s ‘trying to turn this broken heart to stone’ after being dumped, but not drinking as much as she does on Hurtin’ (On the Bottle), where she’s ‘drinkin whisky like it’s water’. Four Years of Chances includes some maths in the first verse, and a stomping beat that propels the song along in a fascinating arrangement. This Town Gets Around is a hymn to Nashville: ‘So many promises, favours and lies…It’s who you blow that’ll put you in the show!’ It’s a cautionary tale, and can put off the Prices of the future from having a go.
Margo Price has, in effect, already won. She makes ‘modern traditional country’ and is the next musical guest on Saturday Night Live – she also seems to be the next great Nashville star, one which took ‘thirteen years of hard work and countless rejections’ to get to SXSW, SNL and (come May) Britain. Not bad at all for a Midwest farmer’s daughter. Not bad at all.