Review Summary: I Have Been to the Mountain and Back
Margo Price has returned with her anthemic and poignant brand of country rock/americana chic with an effort so musically dynamic and lyrically dense that it emblazons her name in the great echelons of modern music. While Price doesn’t exactly rewrite the formula, her ability to transcend genres and combine elements and styles together eliminates the possibility of pigeonholing her into any certain musical circle. From a more guitar-centric rock approach to electronic-pop-tinged beats, to powerhouse acoustic anthems, Price compiles a group of songs that subsequently varies, shapes and molds into various identities. There have been many dynamic artists through the decades, but I feel confident in inducting Price into that realm of music artists.
The tracks ‘Radio’ and ‘Change of Heart’ both experiment with digital sounds like synth leads and drum machine beats while still being able to transition into traditional americana/country hooks and melodies. Without meaning to sound like a broken record, it’s these transitions and dynamics that keep Price in a class of her own when it comes to modern country music where the most popular of artists will abandon the roots of their genre in favor of trends, radio play and mindless digestible songwriting. There’s a clear effort to create the most poignant backdrops to Price’s lyrics especially in a song like ‘County Road’ with lovely piano melodies, melancholic slide guitars and quietly strummed acoustic guitars. With a story about the envy of leaving her hometown and the dilapidated state the town stands in, Price’s lovely vocal timbre sounds broken and hopeless through her words:
“Maybe I'm lucky, I'm already dead
And I don't even know
But I still see your headlights runnin' through the trees
Out on County road.”
The song ‘Hell In The Heartland’ is a mid-tempo country rock anthem with it’s gorgeous reverb-drenched vocal production to complement Price’s ebbs and flows from softer heartfelt passages to charged belts. Price’s high, soft vocal range displayed during the opening minute of the track is so haunting and mournful and sort of reminds me of Madonna in her heyday. The dark, moody instrumentals compliment her stylings with a strong attention to detail with little spoon-clacks that remind me of Mexicana music with a bit of outlaw country in the mix. The song appears to be set in fast-forward during its last minute with the tempo increasing in intensity adding a bit of drama and flair to an already excellent, cathartic track.
The rest of the record remains high in quality throughout with ‘Anytime You Call’ ft. Lucius which is a mid-tempo country rock tune with lovely choirs and piano leads and the lyrically devastating ‘Lydia’ that documents the tragedy of namesake Lydia in her downfall in society, resulting in drug addiction, sex trafficking and bad decisions. The song lyrically remains hopeful even through all the tough realities faced:
“So you've got a long walk to think about it
A long walk to the station
A long life ahead to live with yourself
So think about it, Lydia.”
Margo Price is a bright spot in the landscape of country music along with excellent songwriters and vocalists like Brandi Carlile, Sturgill Simpson, Amanda Shires, Chris Stapleton, etc. Her vocal performances in this record are stellar, the storytelling is varied, detailed and relatable. There isn’t a sore spot on the record because every song is able to create something unique and interesting without sacrificing overall quality. I highly recommend this to anyway that loves a story sung to them by an angelic voice.