Every few years an artist comes along that makes you wonder where they’ve been hiding all this time and why you’ve never heard them before. And when Margo Price belted her songs out on the museum stage at Newport Folk Festival last summer, she convinced a packed house that she was one of them. She’s got the kind of voice and stage presence that makes you stop and stare, and most importantly, listen. She’s had a long road to her new record Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and from the first few powerhouse notes on the dazzling opening track “Hands of Time”, you’ll be grateful her struggles led her to you (Entertainment Weekly compared this tune to Loretta Lynn’s “Who’s Gonna Miss Me?”).
Price has the classic country gal sound of the greats that came before her (Lynn and Tammy Wynette come to mind), and she embraces the spirit of true country music without ever becoming a caricature. She’s so authentic, you have no problem believing her when she sings lines like “I put a hurtin’ on the bottle/Baby now I’m blind enough to see/Been drinkin’ whiskey like it’s water/That don’t touch the pain you put on me.” Said phrase comes from the album’s first single “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)”, a true blue honkytonk gem that’s a little badass but genuine enough to make you a little sad, too. It’s a heartbreaker – something Price proves she can do well. Her lyrics can be heart wrenching and her voice seems to pull everything out of her from a place deep and dark.
It would not be hard to imagine any of the songs on Midwest Farmer’s Daughter soundtracking a dimly lit bar with buzzing neon, cheap cold beer and a hotter than hell jukebox, where people dance close and say things they’ll regret tomorrow. But what makes Price stand out is that she brings that vibe to songs about sticking it to the man and sticking up for herself. She’s no gentle, timid flower, despite how pretty she sounds on songs like “World’s Greatest Loser” and “Since You Put Me Down”. Price exudes strength and confidence in both her songwriting and her sophisticated vocals. She hits all the right notes at all the right times, carefully rising and falling exactly where it matters.
There’s a throwback sound to Price’s record, but it’s not stuck in the past. It’s refreshing to hear some legitimate country music that’s exciting and not watered down for the masses. In the vein of Nikki Lane and Aubrie Sellers, Price appreciates her influences and doesn’t shy away from imperfection and realness. She sings about drinkin’, cheatin’, and stifling small towns, and don’t expect her to apologize for it or sugarcoat a damn thing. You won’t want her to, anyway. “Four Years of Chances” condemns a no-good husband to a ricocheting drumbeat, and “Weekender” finds Price recalling a few memorable days spent in the slammer. These sure ain’t glamorous, and thank goodness.
Price’s recent Instagram post says it best: “Less than a year ago I couldn’t find a label, and no one had the time to give my record a chance.” There’s no telling what this year will bring her, but it’s finally clear. Margo Price is being heard.
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Photo: Angelina Castillo/Courtesy of the artist