As punk’s meaning shifted from an aggressive form of rock music to a vague reference to DIY attitudes and counter-culture, many movements adopted the punk mindset. Although she might stretch the term to its limits, Margo Price is country’s new punk.
Pleasing both traditionalists and modern country fans, Margo Price takes an approach similar to the styles of Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn — she doesn’t give a damn about tradition. On her 2016 solo debut, Price challenged the status quo. Now with her sophomore release, All American Made, Price does much of the same to moderate success.
Following in the footsteps of outlaw country while incorporating influences from soul and blues, Price and her husband, Jeremy Ivey, wrote All American Made as an honest portrayal of American life. Whether it’s tales of difficult manual labor, lost romances or politics and sexism, Price attempts to run the gamut with this LP, and it surprisingly works. Standout moments include “A Little Pain,” a song focused on the importance of an optimistic outlook to work, and “Heart of America,” an examination of the failings of the American dream.
The most surprising song on All American Made is “Pay Gap,” a raw, unbridled examination of wage discrepancies. Initially, Price appears to take a feminist perspective on the issue, but goes on to transform the issue from one of sexism to that of basic rights, bringing in her own sense of humor when she sings, “Don’t give me that feminism crap.” Paired with the Spanish-inspired guitar work and a good instrumental mix, “Pay Gap” stands out for all the right reasons.
Not every song hits its mark though, especially “Learning to Lose.” The jazzy duet featuring Willie Nelson is most certainly the realization of Price’s wildest dreams, but the message concerning the cost of learning life lessons was certainly lost in the excitement of this duet. Price and Nelson sound like they’re working separately and against each other, leaving the song’s purpose unclear.
Repeated listens to All American Made certainly reveal its merits, but they additionally reveal subtler flaws, especially in terms of variety. Price’s debut album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, deals with many of the same issues sans politics, making this LP feel like an evolution of its predecessor rather than a revolution.
For dedicated Price followers, this project will certainly satisfy their cravings, and newer listeners will find a fun and engaging album that might get them hooked. However, for more passive fans, All American Made could feel like a rehashed project that relies too heavily on its formulas.
Price’s brand of country isn’t stale — yet. Right now it’s still a great listen, but if Price doesn’t innovate on her next album, she’ll be too much of a one-trick pony.