Truth lies in the details – and that goes double for tradition-minded country music, a point Margo Price’s debut makes fiercely. In “About to Find Out,” a Loretta Lynn-styled can of whoopass, it’s the image of a selfie-snapping jackass fast-forwarding the song into the present. In the honky-tonk hangover “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle),” it’s the unsaved gospel vocal explosion of “Lord Lord Lord!” near the end. In “Tennessee Song” it’s the burly, Bonham-esque drum intro. And in “Weekender,” a Southern working class Orange Is The New Black narrative so real you can taste the meal-tray mystery meat, it’s the way Price makes “crack cocaine” sound as country as Evan Williams whiskey (which gets its own name-check).
Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is the first full-on country release on Third Man, the Nashville based label run by suspect carpetbagger Jack White, and dude was smart to wait ‘til he had an act this undeniable. Price is a thirty-something East Nashvillian originally from Illinois; the vocal style is restrained yet mighty, her songcraft amazingly vivid, and the arranging instinct spot on, with a taste for retro styling that never tilts into Gramma’s attic dress-up. The set opener “Hands of Time” comes close, a six-minute memoir-style wrapped in lush strings that channel late ‘60s Bobbie Gentry-style country soul. But by the time Price sings about losing a first-born and crying out to God, bruised stoicism muting the sound of her knees hitting the floorboards, you’re reminded of the incredible power that lies in tradition well-used. It’s a power the rest of this record makes plain.