Back in September of 2015, Third Man Records gave a teaser of the forthcoming Margo Price project with a snippet of an acoustic rendition of “Desperate And Depressed” with a nice accompanying dobro. I remember being intrigued not only by the arrangement of the song but also by the effortlessness by which Price sang and inflected her voice and by the no-nonsense lyrics. I sent a note to Ben Blackwell from Third Man that I was really liking the little bit I’d heard of Ms. Price through that video and her Daytrotter session.
Later that day he responded that he was excited for the world to hear the project. I sensed an earnestness in his message—not label-speak for backing an upcoming project. Fast-forward a few months later and an advance stream of the album was sent my way. The first thing to roll out through the speakers was “Hands Of Time,” and to say I was floored would be an understatement.
There are songs that tug at your heartstrings, and there are songs that encompass the emotions that run the gamut of the human experience from love, loss, confusion, anger, resilience and fear. “Hands Of Time” does both. Some of us are given an easier path, and some of us have to trudge our way through the mud to make some semblance of a life. It’s up to each of us to determine which one is more of a blessing. The words Margo Price put to paper and then had the bravery to lay her soul bare on the track are nothing short of enrapturing…and grounding. For “Hands Of Time” isn’t some run-of-the-mill and check-the-boxes songwriting exercise; it’s this woman’s life story.
With each listen, I’ve been ripped apart hearing about her firstborn dying and felt a sense of connection about busting my ass working bad jobs and being taken advantage of by someone you thought you could trust in a way not many songs have hit me over the course of my music-listening life. The feeling extends beyond just the words. When her voice starts to soar on the chorus where she relays she just wants to make a little money to buy back her family’s lost farm and bring a bottle of wine home to her mother, it’s less about a sense of triumph and more about a calling out to a higher power. This isn’t a song about wanting to get rich and live the high life, it’s one about being able to acquire only the things that are important to you. David Allen Coe once exclaimed in the middle of “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” that it was the perfect country and western song. Time will tell, but “Hands Of Time” may be giving it some competition.
Her voice is equally as engaging as her writing, going from mournful to exclamatory, oftentimes in the same song. There have been comparisons to Loretta Lynn, which must be flattering to the up-and-coming singer. To write, sing and relate to your listeners as she does is a rare trio of traits.
The album has plenty of other rapturous moments. “Tennessee Song” sounds as if it was a comeback song from Juliette Barnes on Nashville. With references to the major thoroughfares, it feels as though you’re on a road trip to the Volunteer State with the top down. The state’s tourism bureau would be smart to license the chorus for a commercial this summer. “About To Find Out” has the kind of attitude that recalls “Fist City” (again, with the Loretta Lynn reference), and the honky-tonk musical backdrop sounds as if it should be oozing out from your local watering hole late on a Thursday night as does the official lead single, “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle).”
Midwest Farmer’s Daughter resonates with the working class, especially if you come from a small town in the Midwest. Its themes and emotions are applicable to all walks of life, however. It’s nice to see that Price’s star is on the rise. While she’s faced a number of setbacks to get where she is today, her talent beams golden bright on this album.