2018 CD REVIEW
ALL AMERICAN MADE (THIRD MAN MUSIC)
MARGO AND WILLIE - IN LUCK
“On the day before the day before the New Year/ the snow is falling on my prairie home/ and I'm so far from where I started/ but no closer to where I belong.” - Learning To Lose - Margo Price-Jeremy Ivey.
Mid-West Farmer's Daughter Margo Price had no trouble persuading Shotgun Willie Nelson to be a guest vocalist on her second solo album.
Willie, 85 on April 29, frequently books Margo to appear at his July 4 picnics, Farm Aid and festivals at his Luck movie town ranch near Austin.
Margo has also recorded and filmed her songs, featured on Nu Country TV , in his Luck chapel with her band.
But this time Willie and his famed guitar Trigger guest on Learning To Lose that Margo wrote with guitarist husband Jeremy Ivey.
So how did Margo recall meeting Willie on his famous Honeysuckle Rose bus?
“Oh, well, it's kinda hard to remember but it was pretty smoky,” Margo, now 34, revealed.
“No, it was a great time. He was telling jokes and thanked us for being there, and playing at Farm Aid . I was just thrilled to meet him and his wife Annie, and their kids are so sweet. I met his sister Bobbie Nelson who's still playing in his band and is still such a great player. And Paul English, of course, is still playing with him, so it's been a joy to get to know all of them and just spend some time with them.”
How was their duet recorded?
“We recorded that song at Sam Phillips Recording in Memphis and then we asked Willie if he would sing on it,” Margo explained.
“He said, “Yeah, of course,” so I came down there to his studio in Spicewood, out by his golf course and home outside of Austin. Oh it was just so cool. The guitar was already set up; Trigger was there in his stand.
He came in and was in a great mood. He was also working on God's Problem Child that day, his record, so I got to hear all of that before it was released. We just had such a great day there. Mickey Raphael, his harmonica player, also played on that track. It was so cool.
“Willie was real encouraging to my husband Jeremy and I. He said, “This is a great song,” and did a lot of takes. He did so many good guitar takes, too, that we had a hard time picking what solo we were going to use, because they were all brilliant. They were all so good and so different from each other. I bet we spent six hours one day just listening to everything that he had done. I had tears of joy coming down my face listening back.”
A LITTLE PAIN
“I'm so tired but I can't sleep/ too many obligations I'm trying to keep/ gotta please everybody except for myself/ like Levon said, I ain't in it for my health.” - A Little Pain - Margo Price.
All American Made follows her 2016 breakthrough CD Mid-West Farmer's Daughter that won wide acclaim for her narratives torn from the back pages of her life and love.
“There was also a lot of this, ‘What are you going to write about now?'" explained Price who name checked the late Tom Petty in the title track of the album that was released on October 20 - 18 days after his death at 66.
"I was like, ‘Well, the last album was a concept record about my life. And there's so many things to explore in this world besides just me. I will find something to be depressed about. Don't you worry.”
Price played piano, sang in a church choir and studied dance and theatre in tiny Illinois town Aledo before moving to Nashville at 20.
Margo started Buffalo Clover with Ivey and released three albums and fronted Margo & The Price-Tags whose members included Sturgill Simpson and Kenny Vaughan.
"I used to write story-songs, about a couple robbing a bank or whatever," says Price whose dad worked as a prison guard after having to sell the family farm when she was two.
"But I decided I'm going to go ahead and lay it all out on the line here. And it felt really good, really therapeutic."
Price, who once spent a weekend in gaol on drink driving charges, says the late Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings are her biggest heroes.
"A lot of times, people say, 'You're so much like Loretta or Tammy Wynette,'" says Price.
"But I feel kind of like one of the men. I'm like David Allan Coe. I've been to prison, man! I think that's what separated me from the Kacey Musgraves, stuff like that. There's not a lot of glitter or girly bows and stuff."
Price pawned her wedding ring, musical equipment and car to finance her debut solo album - also at Sun Studios in Memphis.
She previously appeared on Nu Country with Hurting on the Bottle, Hands Of Time, Desperate & Depressed and It's Not Drink Driving If You Are Riding a Horse .
Price returned with her Curtis Wayne Millard directed video for Weakness where she pulls her motorcycle up to the 31W Liquor Store in Goodlettsville where her band is waiting in the parking lot.
Margo pours out a can of petrol on the pavement, walks inside and stages a holdup.
Price and Ivey collaborated on Weakness - one of several songs featuring fiddler Joshua Hedley and pedal steel guitarist Luke Schneider.
“I think that both my husband band-mate Jeremy and I are always looking for a way to invert a cliché or take some sort of Southern colloquialism or any little bit of wisdom, riddles even, and make them into something that's memorable and new, but yet still feels familiar,” Price explained.
“My husband and I both love that clever style of writing. A song like George Jones' It'll Be Me is a good example of that: “When the phone doesn't ring, it'll be me.” It puts it in a way that's actually thought provoking.
“It started from a poem I wrote. It started, “sometimes I'm Virginia Woolf, sometimes I'm James Dean,” and it was me having these multiple personalities and describing them through characters I admire. So Jeremy took some stuff I had, then threw the line in there, and then we put a cooking beat behind it. It's so fun to sing. I'm lucky I have him to help me make ideas that always keep us on our toes. We're very competitive.”
PRICE PAY GAP
“It's not that I'm asking for more than I'm owed/ and I don't think I'm better than you/ the say that we live in the land of the free/ but sometimes that bell doesn't ring true/ it's been that way with no equal pay/ and I wanna know when will it be fixed/ women do work and get treated like slaves/ since 1776.” - Pay Gap - Margo Price.
“And I did look at other writers that came before me, like Loretta Lynn and songs like The Pill and Rated X , and Henson Cargill's Skip a Rope . It's been done before, where you slip in a little bit of a message in there and also have some easy listening music to go with it. You can go a long way by sugar coating it a little bit.”
Price explained her lyric “Don't give me that feminism crap.”
“Yeah, people always ask me about that line,” Price explained.
“It's very tongue in cheek, like, “Don't say ‘feminist' like it's a bad thing,” because obviously I am a feminist and it means equal rights for all. It doesn't mean women are better, it just means that we're all equal.”
In Heart of America and the title track she shifts from detailing the loss of her family's farm to telling stories of others who have been victims of the system.
She said she tried to get the exact story of what happened from relatives.
“But it's so complicated and the farming industry has so many layers,” Price conceded.
“These songs written both by myself and with my husband were born while travelling America between the highways and hotel rooms, in the crowded airports and all-night diners and, occasionally, on the green grass of our Tennessee home.”
Price shares her penchant for writing songs about life on the cutting edge like mentors diverse as Texans Billy Joe Shaver, Kacey Musgraves and the late Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.
“I kinda try and do my own thing,” Price said of comparisons with Kacey.
“We're both female and that's our common thread, but I like Kacey. I like what she does and think she's super cool, but I like to keep moving and just worry about myself. I didn't remember playing at the same time, I just remember having a good time.”
And Billy Joe.
“This past year, we've been covering his song Black Rose and I met him at Willie's Fourth of July picnic,” Price recalled.
“And I met him in Nashville one time, too. I've ran into him probably three or four times now, and I always go up to him and get him to tell me stories. I don't even know that he knows who I am, but I always say, “Hey, it's Margo.”
“I told him this past year I was covering Black Rose and he said, “We don't do that one anymore.” That was one of his earlier songs and has darker subject matter. He's just great. He's a legend. Years ago, we went to Willie's Luck Reunion back before we were playing it and my husband took a picture of him. It's always a joy to be around Billy.”
And, like her heroes, Price is the mistress of reality rooted subjects.
“Hopefully I'm converting a lot of people because there's been great country music out there,” Price said.
“We've just been through a long period in popular music of things being really happy and not having a lot of substance when it comes to the topic of songs. People get hungry for the truth after they're starved of it.
“Yeah. I understand that people have been turned off of country music because of what the mainstream has forced on them for so long, but yeah, it's been good to feel a little bit of a sea change. You just have to be on the look-out for all the imposters out there that are trying to go back to their roots and make something authentic after years of just going along with the same thing everybody else has been doing.”