Margo Price
Midwest Farmer's Daughter



Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A promising but flawed debut for the rising country star

In country music, authenticity is a big deal, and Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, the debut album from singer/songwriter Margo Price, does everything in its power to make you believe it has it. Just look at the title, or the unassuming figure Price cuts on the cover. The album’s lyrics attempt to further this impression of authenticity, presenting tales of sinners, drinkers, and lovers. The album’s excellent opener “Hands of Time” is a biographical record of Price’s leaving her home town and trying to make her living through music and how through it all she never forgets her roots. With lines such as “All I want to do is make something last” and “my firstborn died and I cried out to God / Is there anybody out there looking down on me at all"”, the song excels in its relentless honesty. Later in the album, Price even explicitly attempts to distance herself from the country music establishment with “This Town Gets Around”, in which she criticizes Music Row in no uncertain terms, declaring, “I won't put out or be controlled / I don't write the *** that gets bought and sold”.

Indeed Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an unpretentious set of songs, though it almost beats the listener over the head with its authenticity, to the point that the authenticity feels somewhat forced and, thus, less authentic. However, this is still a strong collection of country tunes, leagues ahead of the glossy, overblown pap that Nashville pumps out day by day. Indeed, having been released on Jack White’s Third Man Records, for a straight-ahead country album in 2016, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter couldn’t be further removed from Music Row. And yet the music on display still takes all of its cues from the country tradition -- almost to a fault, as Price fails to really create an identity of her own.

Price’s songwriting and lyrics are solid, though some tracks, like “Tennessee Song” and “Since You Put Me Down”, could stand to be cut down by a verse or two for a greater impact. Further, she has a pleasant, pretty voice, well suited to these songs, but for the most part she lacks a certain punch or emotiveness that would make her vocal work more captivating. Her band display a similar fault. They are certainly adequate, presenting a nice mix of acoustic, steel, and electric guitars, along with keys and the occasional mandolin or fiddle, backing it all with solid bass and drum work, but they mostly fail to impress or stand out in any way, failing to cross the line from tasteful to tasty. This approach would work better if Price were a more engaging vocalist and lyricist. As a result, none of these songs are bad, but some are merely passable.

Regardless, there are a handful of really great tunes here. The aforementioned “Hands of Time” gently sways its way through a 6-minute runtime, elevated by some of Price’s strongest lyrics and a great string arrangement that calls to mind classic soul records. “Four Years of Chances” distinguishes itself through its presentation of some R&B elements, bringing the bass right up front and having some great Rhodes piano playing. “About to Find Out” brings a bit more energy than most of the other tracks, and also boasts some of the album’s greatest (and funniest) lines, such as “You wouldn’t know class if it bit you in the ass” and “What does your pride taste like honey" / Well haven’t you tried it out" / It’s better than the taste of a boot in your face / Without any shadow of a doubt”. There’s an undeniable sharpness in this song that puts the rest of the album to shame.

Despite its flaws, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an enjoyable document of a promising new talent in country music. It takes a few listens to identify the goodies, but they are indeed there. On the merits of this record, Margo Price is not quite the savior some have made her out to be, but if she tightens up her songwriting a bit, allows the band more time to shine, and gives her vocals a bit more punch, Mrs. Price might just become a force to be reckoned with.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
theBoneyKing
October 22nd 2016


12905 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Recommended tracks: Hands of Time, About to Find Out, Four Years of Chances, Hurtin' (On the Bottle)

I was kind of torn between a 3 and a 3.5 for this one. It's certainly worth a listen or two if you're into country.

Constructive criticism is welcomed.

Digging: The Delgados - Hate

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2016


6362 Comments


"authenticity is big deal"
- a*

"The album’s excellent opener “Hands of Time” is a biographical record of Price’s leaving her home town and trying to make her living through music and how through it all she never forgets her roots."
- could use a couple commas to make the sentence a bit easier to read

"Indeed Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an unpretentious set of songs, though it almost beats the listener over the head with its authenticity, to the point that the authenticity feels somewhat forced and, thus, less authentic."
- this is contradictory. if the album insists its authenticity to the point of it sounding forced / disingenuous, then complimenting its "unpretentiousness" doesn't really make sense. you could change this by saying, "Indeed Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a purportedly unpretentious set of songs..." or something...

"Despite its flaws, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an enjoyable document of a promising new talent in country music."
- this sentence interests me in that it brings up the question of whether or not an album can be "without flaw" yet still not be good. you don't really focus too much on flaws, but rather a lack of identity. personally, i wouldn't consider this a flaw, just as a wouldn't consider a blank canvas a flaw (though would hardly give it a glowing review - i would mostly accuse it of being nondescript, and that would be that). I'm not sure if you should change this sentence, however. idk

"On the merits of this record, Margo Price is not quite the savior some have made her out to be, but if she tightens up her songwriting a bit, allows the band more time to shine, and gives her vocals a bit more punch, Mrs. Price might just become a force to be reckoned with."
- i don't exactly love these sort of "pre-emptive conclusions" because I'd rather you just sum up the album and why it's worth even writing about in the first place, rather than offering pseudo-mentorship towards the artist (who likely won't read this). just a personal preference in writing, for me. you don't necessarily need to erase it or really change much of it, but just a slightly tonal change would give it more punch as a conclusion.

theBoneyKing
October 22nd 2016


12905 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks for the feedback!

Idk how I missed that typo in the very first line, fixed it.

"this is contradictory. if the album insists its authenticity to the point of it sounding forced / disingenuous, then complimenting its "unpretentiousness" doesn't really make sense. you could change this by saying, "Indeed Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a purportedly unpretentious set of songs..." or something..."

I see what you're saying, however what I was trying to get across is that it feels less authentic than it actually is, not that it actually is less authentic, so I think I'll leave that line as it is. It's kind of a fuzzy distinction though, so I can see where the confusion stems from.

"this sentence interests me in that it brings up the question of whether or not an album can be "without flaw" yet still not be good. you don't really focus too much on flaws, but rather a lack of identity. personally, i wouldn't consider this a flaw, just as a wouldn't consider a blank canvas a flaw (though would hardly give it a glowing review - i would mostly accuse it of being nondescript, and that would be that). I'm not sure if you should change this sentence, however. idk"

Again I think see where you're coming from, though I think that's kind of a trivial distinction.

"i don't exactly love these sort of "pre-emptive conclusions" because I'd rather you just sum up the album and why it's worth even writing about in the first place, rather than offering pseudo-mentorship towards the artist (who likely won't read this). just a personal preference in writing, for me. you don't necessarily need to erase it or really change much of it, but just a slightly tonal change would give it more punch as a conclusion."

Yeah, I was struggling with how to conclude this, and I agree that's not really my favorite style of conclusion either. I'll take a look at it again later when I have some time. :D

hal1ax
October 22nd 2016


9131 Comments


I enjoy your writing style. Keep it up. Pos

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2016


6362 Comments


"Again I think see where you're coming from, though I think that's kind of a trivial distinction."
- i didn't highlight it as a damning error of any sort, but i don't think my observation was trivial. "shortcomings" would be a more appropriate term, at any rate. if there is one part of a review where you should be especially picky about word choices, it's the conclusion.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2016


6362 Comments


"I see what you're saying, however what I was trying to get across is that it feels less authentic than it actually is, not that it actually is less authentic"
- all the album really can be is what it feels to be. if the album gives the impression of being less authentic, then as a listener i will take it at face value. similarly, you cannot as a listener accuse an album itself as being pretentious or un-pretentious (as all it really is is a piece of art), but you can judge it based on its conveyance. if it comes off as disingenuous, then there you go. my criticism stands.

i don't really want to split hairs, but that part stood out to me, so i addressed it.

theBoneyKing
October 22nd 2016


12905 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah I guess it isn't quite "trivial". And you're right, "shortcomings" is indeed a better word. Thanks again! Any suggestions on a better word than "flawed" in the summary, or do you think it works fine there?

And thanks hal1ax! :-]

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2016


6362 Comments


"Any suggestions on a better word than "flawed" in the summary, or do you think it works fine there?"
maybe just " a promising blueprint" or something that suggests that she's still a work in progress

theBoneyKing
October 22nd 2016


12905 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"a promising blueprint" - I like that, will make that and a couple other edits later. Thanks again for the thoughtful commentary! Clearly I'm just developing my craft. It's definitely harder to write about these more middling works than stuff I love.



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