Success hasn’t blunted Margo Price’s sobering vision of a dysfunctional America | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Success hasn’t blunted Margo Price’s sobering vision of a dysfunctional America


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It’s been heartening to see a wave of country artists who have rejected the hat-act simplicity and cornpone sentiment that’s tarnished the genre now verging on becoming the new mainstream. Among this rising crop of players is Margo Price, whose surprise success with her 2016 debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (Third Man), hasn’t altered her sober worldview or her admiration for the 70s country sound of Loretta Lynn, Bobbie Gentry, and Dolly Parton. While the title of her second album, All American Made (Third Man), might suggest knee-jerk patriotism, just about every song reflects economic struggle and a sense that the lines between right and wrong are increasingly hazy, making it hard to know which path to follow. On “Heart of America,” a pointed look at how agribusiness has destroyed the livelihood of the American farmer, Price salutes Willie Nelson (who makes a sweet-toned cameo on “Learning to Lose”) and Neil Young for spearheading Farm Aid to help those in danger of foreclosure—though even those efforts came too late for many small farmers. “But that was still long after the much bigger war,” she sings glumly, noting her own family was among the devastated. Several tunes provide solemn meditations on the current state of the American dream: “Nowhere Fast” describes a fruitless search for a better life, and on “Pay Gap” she excoriates economic gender inequality and reflects on Judeo-Christian hypocrisy, singing, “We’re all the same in the eyes of my God / But in the eyes of rich, white men / I’m no more than a maid to be owned like a dog / And a second-class citizen.” Price’s honeyed twang is beautifully framed by nimble, unfussy arrangements, whether her delivery is sassy, as on the soul-steeped “Do Right By Me”—which features harmony singing by Nashville institution the McCrary Sisters—or weary, as it is on the pessimistic title track.   v

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