Margo Price Defies Expectations on ‘Strays’ –
Loma Vista Records
4 out of 5 stars
I’ve got nothing to prove is the first thing you hear from Margo Price on the opening track of her new album, Strays. It’s a fitting introduction, as Price makes a point to temper expectations at every turn on this album.
The opener, “Been To The Mountain,” is cinematic in scope. Before Price enters, the listener is lifted up by a mix of foreboding synths before crashing back down to earth with a smoky guitar line. According to Price, she wanted this album to be a “10-hour hallucination where you remember everything again”. There is no better descriptor for the first few minutes of Strays.
The humorous and atmospheric nature of the record can be compared to an extended mushroom trip Price and her husband/frequent collaborator Jeremy Ivey took to South Carolina. While expanding their minds through psychedelia, the pair listened to the likes of Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Influenced in more ways than one, Price once again expanded her sonic range, pushing the boundaries of her country identity.
Strays’ theses are as meandering as the title suggests. She explores everything from her history, abortion rights to the female orgasm. The songs are at once deeply introspective and cutting social commentary.
Price has helped along the way in her pursuit, tapping the likes of Sharon Van Etten for “Radio” (which features one of the catchiest lines of the entire album: The only thing I’ve got on the radio is the radio), Mike Campbell for ” Light Me Up” and Lucius for “Anytime You Call.” Each of the featured artists reinforces the new direction of Price’s voice.
Price distinguishes herself as a storyteller in Strays – perhaps more so than ever before. She expands songs like “Lydia” or “County Road” into extended vignettes with enough texture and context that it’s impossible not to let your mind wander around the visuals she paints. She sings on “Lydia” with obvious emotion, In the clinic, I wonder what your face would be like / Mascara bleeding into my eyes / Chained like a dog with a midlife crisis and an ex-husband / Hiding a Marlboro Ultra Light I stole from a nurse over there in the alley / Halfway home is where the heart is and I’m halfway home.
Strays further reinforces the idea that Price should be free to experiment. “I feel this urgency to keep moving, to keep creating,” she offered of her creative process in a statement. “You get stuck in
the same thought patterns, the same addictive loops. But there comes a point where you
I just have to say, ‘I’m going to be here, I’m going to enjoy it and I’m not going to put so much
book to check the boxes for everyone else.’”
Price breaks every remaining barrier around her on this record for a huge haul. In just 10 songs, she manages to tell a lifetime of stories that are captivating from start to finish.
Photo by Alysse Gafkjen // Courtesy of Shorefire