Review: Margo Price presents progressive country outlook on ‘All American Made’

Story by Hayden Goodridge / Contributing Writer

Margo Price somehow manages to fall outside any and all norms of country music.

Signed to the famed Third Man Records in Nashville, the 34-year-old singer-songwriter was taken under the wing of the label’s curator and rock-giant, Jack White. On her 2016 debut, “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter,” Price established herself as a dissident to popular country, aligning instead with the signature sounds that dominated the country airwaves of the 1970s. Despite her nostalgic musical influence, Price’s latest release, “All American Made,” incorporates progressive social attitudes and criticisms throughout, in a blend of tradition and innovation that places her as a pioneering voice for country music.

“All American Made” contains a little bit of everything in terms of style. The first two tracks, “Don’t Say It” and “Weakness,” have a definitive honky-tonk feeling, complete with slide guitar, organ and fiddle to get the album off to a rolling start. However, the album expands to incorporate elements of soul and funk, featuring a forceful gospel quartet on the song “Do Right By Me.”

With an eclectic sound to encompass her, Price delves into autobiographical stories of hardship and resilience. The song “Wild Women” discusses the struggles that come along with living as a touring musician with lines like, “It’s hard to be a mother, a singer and a wife.”

The song “Learning to Lose” features a duet between Price and the beloved Willie Nelson, in which both grapple with the difficult irony of using life’s most difficult failures as lessons when going forward. Nelson’s seasoned voice perfectly complements Price as they share sentiments with one another in the track.

As much as the album is defined by Price’s personal anecdotes, it also addresses a number of prevalent socio-economic issues affecting American life. “Pay Gap” draws attention to the blatant inequality of earnings between men and women, a pressing issue in the fight for gender equality.  Not many country artists today can say that they’ve attacked large issues like these in their music, something that’s expressed in the song “Cocaine Cowboys,” in which Price criticizes the superficiality of current popular country singers with hilariously slanderous statements like, “You can’t write a song with nothing to say.”

The height of “All American Made” comes in the song “Heart of America,” which delivers a candid story into the hardships of Price’s small-town upbringing. The song illustrates the grim realities that hardened rural farmers faced in the 1980s as the agriculture economy shifted toward factory farming through large corporations. Due to this, many hard-working farming families were left with no assets and ended up losing farms. This issue caused Neil Young and Nelson to start Farm Aid as an annual benefit concert for farming families and is brought up in a verse of the song, “And Neil and Willie tried so hard / And battles they have gone / But that was still long after the bigger war had been won / No one was there to save the wheat and the cattle at my home / They took every field my family owned.”

The songs on “All American Made” are undoubtedly defined by the Nashville singer’s ambition to tackle broad issues through her singular lens, and personal causes like these give Price’s songwriting a purposeful vitality and exemplify her as one of country’s most earnest voices. It’s due to unique perspectives like Price’s that make the counterculture-shake-up of country music apparent, and man does she shake things up wonderfully.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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