Margo Price has been making music for a number of years. Her bass player husband, Jeremy Ivey, formed Buffalo Clover, a band that self-released three albums in four years. Price’s world was rocked after the loss of her first-born. It was a dark time for her following as she turned to drinking and recklessness that ended with her dealing with the law. “Thank god I had my friends and family to keep me going,” Margo says. “Coming through that, I thought, ‘I’m just going to write music that I want to hear.’ It was a big turning point.”
The result of writing the music she wants to hear is Margo Price’s first solo release, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. The album was recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN and was eventually picked up by Third Man records. Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a callback to country’s honky tonk heydays mixed with some blues and rock n’ roll, creating a dynamic record, with each song grounded in country music.
Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a fitting title because this album is who Margo Price is and her life. Several of the songs are personal in nature, best exemplified by the album opener, “Hands of Time.” This 6-minute story ballad could very well be Price’s autobiography. She sings about leaving home to chase her musical dreams, drinking too much, falling for men, and the death of her child. As life’s hardships take their toll, she wishes to turn back the hands of time back to the simpler days of living on the farm back home. It takes confidence to start an album off with a longer, slower song like this, but Margo’s quiet, vulnerable delivery and honest storytelling make “Hands of Time” one of the album’s strongest songs. “About to Find Out” is an upbeat honky tonk song about taking a stand against prideful, lying people in life. Be it a terrible boyfriend or a corporate establishment, the song suggests these people are about to find out what it’s like to be walked on.
Margo Price channels her outlaw sound for “Tennessee Song.” Another song which calls for going back home away from the chaos of life, this time with her husband. The outlaw country sound on this song is great, with the electric and steel guitars nicely balanced. With Margo Price moving to Tennessee, I imagine this is another song written from a personal place. Price tackles heartbreak on “Since You Put Me Down.” She tries to cope with her feelings after her man leaves her. She doesn’t want to see him or speak with him; she only wants to drink her feelings away until her heart has healed. The throwback country production is well done with this song. “Four Years of Chances” is a song with a blues influence, with a more noticeable electric guitar line and a keyboard in the production. The song tells the story of a woman who’s fed up with her husband after four years of marriage. She’s unhappy and has given up on him, so she leaves and finds herself a new husband.
“This Town Gets Around” is a critique on Nashville and the music industry. As she sings in the second stanza, “As the saying goes, it’s not who you know but it’s who you blow that’ll get you in the show. And if that’s not the case I hear you pay ’em.” That’s a harsh, but great line against the country music business in Nashville. Price keeps it decidedly country in this song, as she simultaneously criticizes the establishment while touting her own accomplishments on her own accord. Margo Price slows it down a bit for “How the Mighty Have Fallen.” The song details a prideful man who after the end of the relationship, comes crawling back to the narrator and their simple life at home. “Weekender” is a song that depicts various characters and their hijinks while locked up in a women’s prison. It’s another song grounded in traditional country with the ever-present steel guitar and piano in the mix.
The rowdy “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” finds Margo Price drinking too much after her love leaving her. The song’s production is great with the various guitars, fiddle, and keyboard getting a chance to shine. “World’s Greatest Loser” is quick acoustic song with three stanzas. Margo sings about feeling lost in many areas in life, and pleading to someone who she not be left alone. It’s a poignant song that comes from a place of pain. Midwest Farmer’s Daughter ends with “Desperate and Depressed.” Another acoustic song, the lyrics detail the struggles of a musician on the road. Making little to no money, getting no sleep, and deal makers who aren’t trustworthy, all of it takes its toll on Price who simply feels desperate and depressed.
Overall, I think Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an excellent country album. Price’s vocals are great as she captures the solemness of the slower tracks, but has the appropriate bite and attitude on the rowdier songs. Margo Price has played on several of the late shows and performed on SNL on April 9. It’s still too early to tell, but given the recent success of Chris Stapleton, this could be a big album for country music. Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is one of my favorite albums so far this year.