Margo Price has never taken a typical approach to country music. While her debut took a mystical edge to her tales of troubling times, she takes a more accessible sound for her sophomore record. No longer as pushed away by the industry as she once was, Price feels more alive and happy on this record but also loses a bit of her edge in the change. Lyrically a strong record both in wit and commentary, it feels much more generic musically compared to her debut.
Throwing her twang into shredding rock tones, Price opens fast on “I Don’t Say” as she offers sage advice to a foolish lover. Her hilarious lyrics full of juxtaposed ideas makes the more predictable instrumentation work as a sturdy backdrop. “Weakness” while overtly catchy is in reality one of the darkest tracks on the record. Deceptively lighthearted, the swinging hooks and the devastating lyrics make its light of love shine even brigther.
“A Little Pain” carries its bittersweet message even deeper through layered string arrangements, making each big refrain hit its emotional mark. Her lyrics speak to the damaged souls, searching for happiness but always struggling to hold onto it tightly. With Willie Nelson on duet for “Learning To Lose,” Price laments the sadness that comes with never being quite where you want to be. Nelson’s side gives a painful duality to the track as it becomes clear that even the greats suffer.
Tackling all too timely issues on “Pay Gap” Price points out just how ridiculous women still have it in the workforce. With exotic tones and grooving choruses the song lets its lyrics drive the song with a smirk. “Nowhere Fast” takes an emotional crawl through sombre guitars and strings. Singing to the harder realities of being a touring musician, her story feels all too personal.
“Cocaine Cowboy” slides a subtle amount of funk as it makes something majestic out of drug-slinging thugs. Putting herself in a gripping crime narrrative, the song gains a cinematic touch as well. As she sings about her own strifes in love and life, “Wild Women” finds Price considering a more unhinged lifestyle. While full of spirit and hope, the track doesn’t ignore the pitfalls of the other side either.
Price reflects on her simple, farming childhood on “Heart of America,” celebrating the joy and eventual ruin that came to it. While the predictable writing slows down some of the record, it works here to make her story even more relatable. Taking to the blues with vigor on “Do Right By Me” Price injects some soul into the record, even adding some choir singers. Speaking to moving forward in life, her message of looking after those who love you bo matter how grave the circumstances has a great heart to it.
“Loner” has Price singing to the brokenhearted, critiquing from a personal place about the traps of self-doubt they fall into. The much more subdued sound lets each note provide a lot more weight to the track, for a strong commentary on single life. Slow-burning the album’s finale, “All American Made,” finds Price taking the album out on an epic ballad to America. Playing tragic radio clips as the song reaches its harmonious climax, it presents one of the few moments of musical serenity on the album.
Words by Owen Maxwell