Margo Price strikes almost an apologetic note in the press release for her long-awaited third album: "Take me back to the day I started trying to paint my masterpiece so I could warn myself of what was ahead . . . "
All albums are postcards of a moment in time. Now coronavirus casts a shadow over everything. Lyrics assume new meaning. Last year when Price walked, heavily pregnant, into a Los Angeles studio with producer Sturgill Simpson and a cast of stellar session players, a different future beckoned.
In her wake was the retro country sound and mentor Jack White, who had been behind her two breakout albums, Midwest Farmer's Daughter (2016) and All American Made (2017). Perhaps it was time to move on, but Simpson's big rockist production sometimes swamps Price's voice and those deliciously frank and feisty lyrics.
The songs are also no longer firmly rooted in one sound, flipping from the mid-paced title track with echoes of Fleetwood Mac to the closing clutter of the melodramatic I’d Die for You. Yet the eight sandwiched in between still pack a punch, both in sound and lyric, including the insistent country-pop of Letting Me Down, the gospel-leaning Prisoner of the Highway, and Twinkle Twinkle, with Price’s sage advice to those looking to follow in her footsteps:
“If it don’t break you/ It might just make you rich/ You might not get there/ And on the way it’s a bitch”.