Thursday, January 18, 2018

1.6 - Margo Price "All American Made"

Liberals like their country music much like the way my dad likes his vegetables, “cleverly disguised.” We call it “Americana” or “roots music.” We make sure there’s some association with Johnny Cash. We’ll accept it, if it comes out of Nashville. We just don’t want to directly be associated with “country music.”

Now it’s a shame that country music from that side of the geographical or political spectrum doesn’t get the love it deserves because Margo Price deserves more credit than she’s getting.
Her latest album, “All-American Made” taps into that disaffected midwestern voice better than any one of those New York Times profiles of “real America.”

The album starts of in a place that I don’t associate with country music: vulnerability. The first few tracks are named, “Weakness”, “A Little Pain”, “Learning to Lose”, and “Pay Gap.” I’ve always found country songs to be as disingenuous as regular pop songs when wading into this territory. Price avoids falling into honky-tonk heartbreak or Toby Keith-Fox news anger at the system through deft songwriting. The choruses are much smarter than your typical country song, but they’re just as fun to sing out loud. And Price steers away from typical country tropes and instead relies name drops like Levon Helm, Virginia Woolf, James Dean, and Tom Petty.

The album’s first single, “A Little Pain” is a declaration of self-care that Price wrote while on the road. I found myself humming the chorus, “A little pain never hurt anyone” numerous times throughout the week. I’m guessing that more than a few millennial women who have slogged through dates with guys they met on Coffee Meets Bagel could identify with the line,  “I like you the best when I’m all alone.”

The other standout track from the album, “Pay Gap” goes after what the title implies, pay inequality. Price isn’t afraid to stick it to the “rich, white men” who still play king and queen makers in traditional country radio. She also addresses the fears of what I’m guessing many white, suburban women who probably don’t fall into the Bernie Sanders camp. They don’t want to litigate the same battles that were fought with the Equal Rights Amendment, they just want to get paid what they deserve, “It’s not that I’m asking for more than I’m owed; And I don’t think I’m better than you.”

Price addresses other all-American issues like depression, working mothers, drug use, and the rotting of rural America. The title track begins with an overlay of speeches from Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King, among others. But in one of the final lines of the album, Price asks recently-deceased Tom Petty what he makes of all this, “So tell me, Mr Petty, what do you think happens next.”

I don’t think anyone knows, I’m just glad Margo Price has the courage to admit it.

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