Margo Price—All American Made
RT: 2, 7, 12
Release Date: 10/20/17
Margo Price’s first album was good. It was a quality classic Nashville country-style album, with a couple of standout tracks, and at least one outstanding sign of potential greatness (“Hands of Time” is just incredible), but a lot of it was just kind of mediocre country music that can easily get lost in the shuffle. With album #2, Price has built on those flashes of brilliance shown earlier and created a fantastic album that should cement her as a (possibly the) leading woman voice in the contemporary country revival.
The first thing that immediately stands out in this album is Price’s songwriting. Her songs are every bit as depressing and hard partying as the genre legends (such as Willie Nelson, who pulls a solid guest spot on “Learning to Lose”) she’s building from, but instead of writing songs about heartache and good-hearted cowboys and more heartache, she’s writing songs about personal depression (“Weakness”) and the crushing isolation of humanity (“Lonely”) and the slow death of the Midwest and the poor, rural workers (like, half the songs on the album). She even decides to bluntly tackle some of the toxic political problems in modern America, in a way that feels very refreshing for modern country music. The two songs that do this most directly (“Pay Gap” and “All American Made”) were the tracks that jumped out at me almost immediately, partially because of the directly political nature of their lyrics and partially because they are two of the more unique sounding tracks on the album. “Pay Gap,” a song entirely about exactly what the title suggests, has a very Tex-Mex mariachi sound that lends a pleasant, relaxing vibe to a song with brutally cutting lines like “Women do work and get treated like slaves since 1776.” “All American Made” is a little more traditional sounding, with most of the song accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, but it makes the unique (for country at least) move of having multiple political speeches layered on each other to serve as an attention-grabbing intro, and which are brought back as the bridge between verses. The song itself is about the loss of innocence towards America a person has as they grow up from a home where one is taught that “All American” is the right and ideal state of something (Price even briefly frames herself as Tom Petty’s American Girl), and then slowly learning the noxious implications of what “American” really is (the striking examples here are the missiles sold in the Iran-Contra scandal and the domination of big business literally killing the small-time workers). It’s a genuinely stunning, mournful song, and is a pretty perfect exclamation point to end the album with.
The album isn’t all doom and gloom though. There are a number of fantastic honkytonk romps scattered throughout the album to boost the energy and cheer the mood a bit. “Don’t Say It” is a ripping opener for the album about a shitty boyfriend. “Cocaine Cowboys” is a fun, funky groover about shameless city slickers trying to pose in the country life (as Price says, “they’re all hat”). The song is such a perfect encapsulation of this specific type of terrible person that I want to make it the official theme of Fort Worth, TX now and forever because the Stockyards there are filled with almost nothing but these people. “Wild Women” turns coping with the awful pain of life on the road away from your family by going as hard and wild as possible into an actual party. Price finds a perfect balance for her music on this album, helping it be an intensely serious statement but remaining an easily listenable that you can jam to and not be completely beaten down by. It’s an impressive statement album, and will hopefully launch Price (and her messages) to a new level of stardom.
Margo Price—All American Made