Best Albums of 2016: Margo Price’s hard-luck masterpiece ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’

It’s the time of year where music blogs and publications detail the music that defined the past year. Now, throughout the end of the year, I’m going to review the records that made the biggest impact on me. They all happen to come from female voices. First up is country singer Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. 

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Margo Price’s breakthrough debut record “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter,” is a hard-luck country masterpiece. On the record she balances rowdiness and remorse, liquored-up antics and wisdom you inherit only when you’ve been dealt a gut-wrenching hand time and time again. 

Price is no doubt the realest, most compelling female country voice of 2016–and arguably of the last decade. So it should come as no surprise that Jack White’s Third Man Records took a very well calculated gamble when they released her debut (a record that was critically adored and even lead to an appearance on Saturday Night Live).

Her lyrics cut like a razor blade and are delivered through changes in tone that range from wistful to remarkably resilient, immediately conjuring the catalogs of legends like Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. 

The record is heavily autobiographical, drawing from her rural Illinois roots and a decade of paying her dues in Nashville’s smoky, boozy honky tonks and barrooms. She deftly details the unforgiving nature of life on the road and the deplorable, charismatic folks she’s learned are quick to welcome her “with a viper up their sleeve.” Price’s power seems to stem partly from the fact she never flinches from detailing the darkness she’s encountered. We learn in album standout “Hands Of Time,” that Price has endured the agony of losing her firstborn child. “Weekender” details addiction, how her penchant for hard liquor at one point landed her in the Davidson County Jail. She paints these gritty scenes in a way that would make Merle Haggard and George Jones very proud. 

The brand of country music that Price crafts is an antithesis to the overwhelmingly bland, trite country songs that now rule country radio’s increasingly female-deprived airwaves. “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter,” may well end up being her Magnum Opus (however recently released song “It’s Not Drunk Driving If You’re Riding A Horse,” proves to be as powerful as any of her previously released material.) It’s the kind of record that comes along rarely, the kind of record so strong from start-to-finish it never leaves your car stereo’s six-disc CD changer. “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” is a bold fuck you to Music Row. It’s a tale of redemption and of living to see the light again. A story of fending off demons that hover in every corner. It’s country music. The kind your grandparents were raised on. The kind that raises the bar for musicians who attempt to claim the genre. 

Rating: 10/10

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