Bold as brass, Margo Price commanded centre stage on her Scottish debut. Wearing a figure hugging mini dress seemingly made from the same material as the ruby red slippers in Wizard of Oz, fishnet tights and thigh high boots she certainly was the centre of attention. Now this isn’t a fashion review and generally one would avoid describing in detail an artist’s costume however, as a statement, Price’s attire spoke volumes. True rhinestone glamour that reeked of bar bands playing in roadhouse bars to disinterested drinkers, the singer clinging to dreams of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and dressing up for a few dollars a night: you never know, a music row scout might pop in for a quick drink.
Indeed Price was that singer for several years eking out a hand to mouth existence until last year’s hook up with Jack White’s Third Man Records who released her excellent album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, the title a nod to Lynn’s song Coal Miner’s Daughter while the combination reminded one of White’s previous collaboration with Lynn on Van Lear Rose. The album’s success saw Price mentioned in the same breath as Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton, bastions of traditional country against the onslaught of Bro Country and tonight she delivered a fantastic set of country songs. She proved that she is a worthy successor of those stalwart women, Lynn and Parton with a toughness reminiscent of the best of outlaw country, apparent from the moment the band slammed into Tennessee Song with all the ornery toughness of Waylon Jennings. Since You Brought Me Down followed with Price channelling Dolly here, a feat repeated on Desperate and Depressed while Paper Cowboy sailed into sight as a creamy lament before the band kicked in with some cosmic country pedal steel and telecaster picking. The band (fashion note: kitted out as if they were auditioning for Cisco Pike) played a blinder all night able to rock hard but also lay down some sweet country lopes. The highlight was the autobiographical Hands Of Time with waves of Muscle Shoals county funk tumbling from the stage, Price peerless here, a true Queen of Country.
There was a tribute to Parton (whose birthday was last week) with a fine cover of Jolene and Kristofferson’s Me & Bobby McGee was the first song of the well-deserved encore. Four Easy Chances fizzed with the band slipping into a Stax like funk as if Isaac Hayes was at the helm before the night concluded with a fiery cover of Jennings’ Ain’t Living Long Like This. This was proper Country done properly. A great Celtic Connections debut.
Support act Aaron Lee Tasjan complemented Ms. Price perfectly. Playing solo he delivered several songs from his current album Silver Tears including Ready To Die, Memphis Rain, Till The Town Goes Dark and the witty 12 Bar Blues (about bars he has visited). There was a new song, Lucinda’s Dream, dedicated to Lucinda Williams and Blaze Foley introduced by Tasjan with some wit. Aside from his songs and his impressive guitar playing Tasjan was supremely funny throughout the show with a great joke about his surname included. He ended with a veritable tour de force on Streets Of Galilee which was mainly a tale told in the manner of Arlo Guthrie as on Alice’s Restaurant. Again, it was packed full of humour as Tasjan related his first encounters with music including hearing The Beatles and seeing Ted Nugent at an impressionable age. He certainly won several fans tonight.