Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Album Review: Margo Price - That's How Rumors Get Started

Margo Price
That's How Rumors Get Started
** out of *****

On her debut, 2016's Midwest Farmers Daughter, Margo Price established herself as true rising country star, then 2017's All American Made saw her break out of the Nashville box, putting fourth an ambitious and even better second album. For her third studio effort That's How Rumors Get Started  Price has moved to a new label, new city and a new sound, priming herself for a big breakthrough, While commercially this may yet happen, artistically the record is derivative and a step back.  

Shifting to Los Angeles from Nashville, Loma Vista Recordings from Thirdman Records and producer Sturgill Simpson from Matt Ross-Spang, Price is clearly invested in changing for success and perhaps that's what dulls the edges; a bid for commercialization. The city itself may have the biggest influence on Price's final sound as LA Country rock of the late 70's is everywhere on this over produced offering, hints of Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and The Eagles seep into almost all songs starting with the opening title track. 

By bringing in top notch studio session players like Matt Sweeney (Adele, Iggy Pop), bassist Pino Palladino (D’Angelo, John Mayer), drummer James Gadson (Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye), and keyboardist Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) Price and producer Simpson recieve an uber professional sound, but also lose that special individualistic spark. 

These also aren't the most inspired songs from Price, while the opening title track is a lyrical gem on par with her best, her road song "Prisoner of the Highway"is bland and the declaration of female independence "Stone Me" feels more suited for a dance pop track. That pop flair reaches a zenith on"Heartless Mind" coursing through with 80's florescent pulses, closer to The Pointer Sisters and Olivia Newton John than any other influences. 

The funky rock of "Twinkle Twinkle" grooves but the routine rhymes never elevate it while closer "I'd Die For You" never knows if it wants to become a chugging rocker or a dramatic swan song, amping and echoing Prices voice seemingly randomly, but never syncing up fully with sound and tone. 

Perhaps the most frustrating effort is also partly the best as "What Happened To Our Love" finds Prices strongest lyrics meandering over soothing rock with a tinge of doubting regret. This allows Price to fully sing her words before a completely over the top Nashville Friends Gospel Choir comes slamming into the song 3/4ths of the way through, demolishing the sense of personal pain and power with overwhelming Broadway fanfare. 

Price deserves to reach a larger audience, she can sing, write and play with the best of them from any genre, but in 2020 is recalling that late 70's LA sound the best way to do that? Perhaps, but it certainly doesn't make for a very rewarding full length listening experience to these ears.  
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