Monday, September 21, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1407: Margo Price

Welcome back to the CD Odyssey! I’ve noticed my entries are happening with less frequency lately, for which I apologize. I promise I love music just as much as ever, and I’m pretty sure my zeal for sharing my opinions continues unabated. In fact, here are some more of them.

Disc 1407 is…. That’s How Rumors Get Started

Artist: Margo Price

Year of Release: 2020

What’s up with the Cover? Margo working out her inner Stevie Nicks. I don’t think this cover would start a rumour unless Margo were to walk around with her arm over her head like that all the time. Then the rumour would be something along the lines of “Margo Price has some kind of medical condition that prevents her from lowering her arm!” That rumour is false, of course, but many of the most entertaining rumours are.

How I Came To Know It: I was already a fan of Margo Price through my friend Anthony, so I just bought this record when it came out and hoped for the best.

How It Stacks Up: I have three Margo Price albums and they are all excellent. Because of this consistent excellence, “That’s How Rumors Get Started” can only land at #3.

Ratings: 4 stars

Margo Price has been slowly moving her sound from homespun Americana toward something closer to seventies pop. With “That’s How Rumors Get Started” the journey takes another big step. The songs on this record would be equally at home on old school a.m. radio and at the Grand Ole Opry.

When I first heard the opening (and title) track I was ready to harrumph with disapproval. It was so similar to Fleetwood Mac I wasn’t sure what the point was. Four listens in, I was converted. What I first thought was a rip off was both a love letter to an earlier era, and also a clever advancement of the musical concepts of those earlier songs. Price borrows from them for sure, but she also builds the concept out in her own unique way.

The album lays its rock and roll foundations early, following that song with the bluesy drivetrain of disappointment that is “Letting Me Down” and the crunchy barroom growl of “Twinkle Twinkle.” “Twinkle Twinkle” also digs into the ephemeral and arbitrary nature of fame. Now an established artist making a good living, Price has more than paid her dues to get to this point, but her acknowledgment of the sometimes arbitrary nature of fame is refreshing.

After all that up-tempo thump, “Stone Me” breaks things back down, bringing her back to her roots Americana feel. Even so, it is with a rich production that evokes the country side of seventies radio. “Twinkle Twinkle” is a political statement about the music industry, outward facing and brash. “Stone Me” is the personal price paid through the same journey, intense and vulnerable.

The album is listed as “Produced by Sturgill Simpson”, but also (as a separate line) as “co-produced by David Ferguson and Margo Price”. I don’t know what the hell this means, but whatever the mixture of the three of them was, they find a cohesive vision throughout. There is a lush anthemic quality to the album, even on the more subdued and mournful tracks. There’s more than a hint of Bonnie Tyler in here, right between her plaid shirt “It’s a Heartache” and big-haired “Total Eclipse of the Heart” phases.

Price’s vocals have always had that combination of sweet and ragged that you’ll often find me extolling. I just like that sound, whether its Lindi Ortega, Jaime Wyatt or Price. Price can belt it out when she wants to, but it always feels like she has more in the tank even at full peel. “Hey Child” and “I’d Die For You” are both prime examples of her vocal prowess. Big and brash, but never feeling like she’s trying to show off. They have that gospel choir feel that just makes you feel like Big Things are happening.

This record is a stylistic throwback, but its exploration of the twisted fate of fame, fans, and the music business is thoughtful and thoroughly modern. Price continues to cut her own path on every record, and “That’s How Rumors Get Started” is a worthy entry in her already impressive journey.

Best tracks: Letting Me Down, Twinkle Twinkle, Stone Me, Hey Child, Prisoner of the Highway, I’d Die for You

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