Margo Price’s ‘All American Made’ Is a True American Country Album
Last we heard, Nashville country singer-songwriter Margo Price was somewhere on the road putting a “Hurtin’ on the bottle.” Her debut album with that very song stunned critics and fans alike as a genuine, old-school country album, something the world had not seen breakthrough in some time. During her time on the tour circuit, Price put forth an effort to create yet another spectacular swath of clever barroom music. Through Jack White’s Third Man Records, Price’s sophomore album “All American Made” picks up right where the gifted musician left off.
Yes, this album is about America, but not in the nationalist sense that one may expect upon first glance at the title. Take “Pay Gap” for instance. This cut not only features a charming accordion but address the all-to-prevalent issue of the inequality women face when it comes to pay rate. Timely indeed, as just last year a report by the Joint Economic Committee was released showing women working full-time in the U.S. earned just 80% of what men earned. “It’s not that I’m asking for more than I’m owed/And I don’t think I’m better than you” Price sings, “You say that we live in the land of the free/Well, sometimes that bell don’t ring true.” With one of the most explicit messages on the album, “Pay Gap” stands out by indeed ringing true. In another instance of Price singing truth to power, “Heart of America” discusses her upbringing on a family farm and the ensuing struggles that lead to its demise. She references Willie Nelson and Neil Young’s valiant efforts through their Farm Aid organization. “And Neil and Willie tried so hard/And battles they have gone/But that was still long after the bigger war had been won.” Through bouncy rhythms and melancholic slide guitar, Price tells the story of the big banks and corporations taking her family’s farm and that though the fight was noble, at the end of the day, “You just do what you can.”
Much of this album is auto-biographical in nature. “Weakness” describes the many sides of Price, how she goes from Virginia Woolf to James Dean, from penthouse to shack. “Wild Women” invokes honky-tonk to tell the tales of life on the road. “A Little Pain” follows a similar topic wherein Price sings about her love of staying busy with her career. This through funky electric guitar and organ riffs. Here she quotes The Band’s drummer Levon Helm saying in reference to the tough life she’s chosen, “But like Levon said, ‘Ain’t in it for my health’.” Price’s insider way of writing about life as a musician, plus the unfathomably clever way she strings lyrics together, make this a deep-dive type of listening experience. “Learning to Lose” features the ever-spirited voice of Willie Nelson, a man about whom she says, “My heroes have always been Cowboys.” Like the aforementioned tunes, this duet examines the undue burdens life presents, and the high cost of being taught a valuable lesson.
Price’s sophomore album lives up to it’s American-ness in more ways than one. It’s a witty melting-pot of sounds that speaks truth to power. The introspection, the honesty, the raw lyricism and musicality make “All American Made” a revelatory country album in an age where the acceptability of country music is being questioned in the mainstream. So far, in Price’s effort to craft an honest, down-home, barroom country album, she stands alone.
“All American Made” is available Oct. 20 on Apple Music.