I remember back when I was in my teens, going on road trips with my family and listening to the radio on my Walkman, as we drove through the south, it was mostly country music. At the time, as much as the stupidly cool thing to say was that you liked everything except country, I secretly didn't hate it. Margo Price's debut album, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, takes me back to that and more. This is pure roots music, really. The twang and the imagery is traditional, but it's not hung up on cliche. It's just real and honest. I actually got on a bit of a country kick this year, and this album was a big part of that.
From the opening track, "Hands of Time," you already know this is something special. It's a 6 minute bio of Price that breaks down her long, hard journey to this moment and sets the tone for the whole thing. Pay attention, because her story is a doozy I won't spoil. There will be parts of this album you'll sing along to, for sure, but there's something really powerful about just letting this wash over you - perhaps while driving with the windows down, wind in your face or even just sitting in your favorite chair, drink in hand. In either case, ponder your life and how you connect to hers. This is what folk music is supposed to do - tell stories that connect you to humanity.
Don't get the wrong idea, though. This isn't a weepy set of songs. These songs are about strength and resilience above all else and many will get you dancing. "Tennessee Song" moves in a way that vaguely made me think of Sheryl Crow's take on Bob Dylan's "Mississippi." And "Four Years of Chances" is funky as hell. All of it will make you think of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and make you hope there's more to come.
You can call it alt-country, Americana, roots, whatever. It doesn't matter and labels are kinda stupid anyway, but this is real country at its most traditional. I understand the Country Music Awards completely ignored her, which strips them of any credibility they may have had. It's ironic that this album stands out so much as being separate from what's currently popular in the genre. This is what you want to listen to on a road trip, on back roads, in a cabin or when you're putting a "Hurtin' (On the Bottle)," which at one point, I heard Shayera singing to herself. Could be worse.