Country has been one of those genres I have been trying hard to get into. Last year was a great year to start, with records from Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Kacey Musgraves showing me just how great the genre can be. That is why I have been upset there have not been many great country albums to review this year. After hearing about this record, and another album I will be reviewing shortly, I decided it was time to write about it.
Before going into Midwestern Farmer’s Daughter I knew nothing about Margo Price, which makes sense considering this is her debut. With no expectations in terms of sound or content I went in hoping for the best. By the time the opener “Hands of Time” was over I felt like I knew Price for years. That is because this song, as well as the rest of this album, is an autobiography of Price’s journey to this point.
“Hands of Time” details the struggle of being broke and away from home. She sings of her modest ambitions of buying back her dad’s farm and brining wine back home for her mom. We get an idea of her personal struggles with details of how her child’s death. Through it all, she looks forward, even if she wants to go back to a less difficult times.
This opener is not only one of the best songs on here, but it is also a great introduction to this artist. Price is smart not to make this album’s narrative that of pity though. She is able to acknowledge her own flaws and demons. Songs like “Since You Put Me Down,” are literally about killing your conscious and making decisions you know are bad, in order to deal with pain. This is a dangerous subject matter, as sympathy could easily be lost; but Price is able to frame it in a way where she feels in control of her decisions and needs it to be strong.
Price also comments on her drinking habits on “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” where she states she’s been “drinking whiskey like its water.” She adds that, similar to what she does in “Since You Put Me Down,” this is mainly because she is pain from someone who has clearly broken her heart.
Heartbreak seems to fuel much of the emotion on this record. A song like “About To Find Out,” with upbeat instrumentation and aggressive lyrics work to have Price tell off this guy who has clearly pissed her off. The song is fun, but also lets you know how awful this guy is to Price.
The pair of tracks in the middle, “Four Years of Chances” and “How the Mighty Have Fallen” also add more to this relationship. The former, which has an old-fashion sound to it, shows how much work was put into the relationship before realizing there was no way anything was going to work. The next song is much more sincere in tone, however. We get an idea of why the man left Price to begin with, and how he is now desperate to get her back. This is a very real situation, having someone you cared for once, come back to you, except now with little ambition and failure under their belts.
“Weekender,” a song about Price’s time serving a short-term prison sentence, is another standout to me, hitting on social issues rather than personal ones. The song comments on the lack of effectiveness in prison systems, saying how many of the inmates are in there just because they cannot afford to pay bail and will likely get into trouble again. I think it is great to see country artists address topics like this and I hope this is something Price brings to her future releases.
Besides the lyrical content, the production here is also quite great. This was surprising considering the album has been self-financed by Price. The track “Tennessee Song” starts off with some heavy percussion before going into a more traditional sound. The end of “Since You Put Me Down” has an eerie echoing effect that adds greatly to the tone of the song.
The songs here all work and there is very little for me to complain about here. This is an excellent and personal debut from an artist I cannot wait to hear more from in the future. This was such an pleasant treat and it shows that sometimes country can offer us some interesting and impactful lyrical content that other genres cannot always get across. All country fans should check this out, it is a truly great record.
Best Tracks: Hands of Time, About to Find Out, Since You Put Me Down, Four Years of Chances, How the Mighty Have Fallen, Weekender