Margo Price – Strays
Singer-songwriter Margo Price has never been afraid to mine her yesterdays for musical inspiration. Price’s 2016 debut Midwest Farmer’s Daughter and its follow-up, All American Made – both released on Jack White’s Third Man Records – draw heavily (and successfully) from Price’s past. Price’s third album, 2020’s excellent That’s How Rumors Get Started, found the performer leaning less heavily on her own history and backing away from the roots/Americana sound that informed earlier releases.
Strays continues this path, cutting a musical tapestry that is as much classic rock and Carole King as it is country. Indie rocker Sharon Van Etten guests on “Radio,” an upbeat number built on a programmed drum part that contains the album’s most delectable lyric: “The only thing I have on is the radio.”
A few songs later, “Time Machine” is built around a looped guitar line with the main hook delivered on xylophone. Lucius stop by on “Anytime You Call,” but the best cameo belongs to former Heartbreaker Mike Campbell who pops up in “Light Me Up” to deliver a psychedelic guitar solo that conjures up the raging outro to “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”
Never afraid to get political (check out “Pay Gap” and the title song from All American Made), Price is even more bold here. On “Lydia,” Price creates a nuanced, sympathetic portrait of a woman considering having an abortion. The juxtaposition of Price’s acoustic guitar against a lush string section adds gravity to the complex depiction.
The piano part that opens “County Road” deliberately recalls Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” While the Boss ruminated on Mary’s dress, Price speaks to a deceased friend, revisiting their awkward path from childhood to adulthood, recalling “when we got drunk that time in Ontario/Listening to Warren Zevon on the radio.” -Joel Francis