Farmer’s daughter continues to challenge Nashville stereotypes.
Despite a hardscrabble life story, almost a veritable rags to riches tale which one would have thought that Nashville would have soaked up, Margo Price has, since her debut album, become something of a thorn in the side of the country establishment. She revels in her contrariness, never afraid to call out toxic masculinity and she defiantly follows her own roadmap.
‘Strays’ follows its predecessor ‘That’s How Rumors Get Started’ in that Price continues to move on from the classic soulful country which catapulted her into the limelight on ‘Mid West Farmer’s Daughter’. Traces of that debut remain in songs such as ‘County Road’, a gorgeous piano and pedal steel led ballad which veers into dark territory with the band always threatening to dig it darker. ‘Hell In The Heartland’ then digs deeper with Price’s voice quite angelic over a bustling and atmospheric buzz of slide guitars along with a dash of percussive exotica. This climaxes on the crunchy rock ballad ‘Anytime You Call’ which, with its live wired slide guitar solo, is so reminiscent of Badfinger.
Elsewhere, Price maintains the rockier element of ‘Rumors’. ‘Been To The Mountain’ is a stellar slice of adrenalined New York punk with Price channelling Patti Smith as she rants the spoken word middle piece while ‘Radio’ finds her duetting with Sharon Von Etten over studio loops and curling guitar on a song with a very attractive retro vibe. ‘Change Of Heart’ is another song with a studio production which harks back to big-shouldered synth pop rock and is the one song here which one might consider overproduced. Nevertheless, Price, who apparently wrote many of these songs after ingesting magic mushrooms, closes the disc with two very intimate songs. ‘Lydia’ again channels Patti Smith with Price reciting a sorry tale over a mildly discordant chamber pop background while ‘Landfill’ is a lambent dissertation on disillusion.
Overall, ‘Strays‘ finds Price in fine voice and not afraid to venture into new territory, and while it might disappoint those just wanting more Southern sass, it’s well worth investigating.