Release Date: Oct 20, 2017
Record label: Third Man Records
Midwest Farmer's Daughter, Margo Price's 2016 debut, was one of those rare country records that reminded outsiders that the genre of rhinestones and melodies could still throw out plenty of grit. It established Price as a penetrating new voice, drawing on her own heart-rending tribulations - poverty, jail, bereavement - and railing against fate and the sexual politics of Nashville, where Price had long toiled unrecognised. Price was only getting started, it turns out.
A ll American Made isn't a celebratory title. As on her debut, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, Margo Price's America is a country in which life is hard; specifically, it's a country in which life is hard for women. She tackles the dry subjects of news reporting with humour and vim: the idea of a song about sex discrimination in wages doesn't sound like fun on paper, until you notice Price's sharp eye for a killer line - "We're all the same in the eyes of God, and the eyes of rich white men" - and get to relish the lightness of touch in the Tex-Mex musical colouring.
Margo Price cut her 2016 debut, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, on her own dime, hawking everything she and her husband had to record the album at Sun Studio. Its rawness grabbed the attention of Third Man Records, which released the record unadorned. Critics and a cult of fans also found the rough edges appealing, but that ragged immediacy also suggested Price was more of a traditionalist than she actually was, a situation she remedies with 2017's All American Made.
It's only been 18 months since Margo Price released her debut solo album, but the Nashville-based singer-songwriter still has a lifetime of experience to draw on for the upbeat, vintage groove of 'All American Made'. 2016's 'Midwest Farmer's Daughter' saw her recount tales both tragic and true and its follow-up is equally open - with inequality in the workplace, drinking too much and annoying hipsters all finding themselves in Price's lyrical firing line. Channelling confessional country music's greats - Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette - this is an album that ignores the past 40 years and the rise of stadium country, preferring to hark back to the genre's more authentic beginnings.
When Margo Price emerged in 2016 with Midwest Farmer's Daughter, there was a certain symmetry to her story. Here was a country singer in the hardcore tradition of Loretta and Kitty, who had struggled to get arrested in Nashville until Jack White's label - noting that the music was recorded at the Sun studio - stepped forward. Price's debut was elegantly curated and mostly autobiographical, detailing the struggles of a smalltown girl in an unforgiving world.
Margo Price doesn't seem to care for the notion of being a country traditionalist and the cult success that comes along with it. The 34-year-old singer-songwriter would much rather name-drop David Bowie and Willie Nelson in interviews as artists with the ideal chameleonic career paths and spend some time courting mainstream fans touring as Chris Stapleton's opening act. She's also wisely aligned herself with Jack White, a musician who has adapted elements of roots music and raw rock to great acclaim and whose label, Third Man Records, has released all of Price's solo material to date.
America, in Margo Price's country music, is not majestic, sprawling, or inviting. It's broken. It's oppressive. It's stolen. Her second album, All American Made, plays out like a realist, modern Western film, offering a stark survey of a country whose "cowboys" are city-dwelling music industry ….
Little more than a year after Midwest Farmer's Daughter became one of the most widely-praised country debuts of 2016, Margo Price is back with All American Made, her most ambitious work yet. Having staked out her own backstory and crafted her rabble-raising mythology on her debut, Price shifts her focus outwards at a heartland ravaged by sexism and poverty. After an opening series of expertly crafted country pastiches, All American Made indeed evolves into one of the most political country records in years, a declarative honky-tonk manifesto of small-town farmer populism and working-class feminism.
Anyone familiar with Margo Price's hardscrabble backstory, much less her terrific debut, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, won't be surprised that the songs on her sophomore effort, All American Made, don't sound like they were made to be featured in Ford pickup truck commercials. Once again, Price's stylistic eclecticism and withering beat-of-her-own-drum lyrical voice shame the cookie-cutter product coming out of the Nashville machine. Endowed with greater hype, and the recording budget that goes with it, however, Price appears to want to have it both ways.