Margo Price, "All American Made" (Third Man Records)
Margo Price extends her deep country roots in new directions on "All American Made," her sophomore album which adds tads of Memphis soul and dabs of gospel and even reggae to her solid East Nashville foundations.
Price's personal story and struggles were deeply and movingly part of 2016 debut "Midwest Farmer's Daughter" and the themes on this record include the travails of the working class — especially women — and their place in the country's big picture.
Her takes on romance and daily living are far from one-sided, as she admits causing pain ("Weakness") as much as suffering it ("Don't Say It") and the fact that she's a working mother has an understandable effect across several songs, including "Pay Gap" and "Nowhere Fast."
Willie Nelson guests on the towering "Learning to Lose" and the contrast between her pure voice and his venerable tones makes for a gripping combination on a song whose premise applies to both of them — "Everywhere I turned/The cards were stacked against me."
The heart-wrenching title track closes the album amid a cacophony of sound bites from the likes of Bill Clinton as Price lays out her experiences with "the good, the bad and the ugly" in America and how she "can't help being stuck."
The country music establishment — and the prejudices of its traditional radio format — can be difficult for adventurous artists to conquer, even if they veer just slightly from the limiting norms. The first-rate songwriting, mostly in collaboration with husband Jeremy Ivey, and the great performances on "All American Made" can help Price break even further through any barriers — real or artificial.