After three years since her previous release a further couple of months’ delay for Margo Price’s third album due to the pandemic just upped the anticipation. That’s How Rumors Get Started is well worth the wait. Price has lost none of her candour. She says it exactly as she sees it on subjects as diverse as motherhood, stardom, relationships, the state of her country and where she lives. Musically though there is change. Country is there but now with a large measure of rock. Price, produced by Sturgill Simpson, has replaced some of her unique country vibe with a much bigger 1970s rock sound.
Listening to this highly professional production it is hard to believe Price struggled to be heard when she first came to Nashville. Thanks to Jack White she found a record label for her debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. 18 months later All Americana Made was 2017’s Country/Americana album of the year. In UK live terms her ascent was even more starkly vertiginous. After performing at the very fine Slaughtered Lamb she next appeared on the main stage at 2018’s C2C. Price has had no shortage of material for her writing; loss of the family farm, death of her infant child, addictions ending in jail. With the unshaking support of husband and co-songwriter, Jeremy Ivey, Price has represented the best in country untainted by the Nashville machine. She so deserves that acclaim.
That’s How Rumors Get Started reflects that success, but any idiosyncratic country edges have been smoothed off leaving a powerful album lyrically but at times sightly overwhelming sonically. Probably no coincidence, but Price has created her own version of her producer’s release last year, Sound And Fury. The musicians she gathered are equally top-notch but in a broader rock sense.
Title track and opener states clearly where Margo Price is now. Over deliciously smooth soft rock redolent of Fleetwood Mac Rumours era, Price herself sounds eerily like Stevie Nicks. Lyrically she seems to be distancing herself from her past, “It’s been a while since I’ve been on this side of town/ Don’t cross the river much these days/ Haven’t been avoidin’ you, I’m hardly ever around/ Sure, we could talk, but what would I say?”
To a faster but similar rock vibe ‘Letting Me Down’ also looks back in characteristic Price style, her love has been spurned, he’s gone but she feels no self-pity.
‘Twinkle Twinkle’ leaves country far behind. This is an out an out rocker. Keyboards from Benmont Tench underscore the Petty sound, particularly at the end. This full on rock matches Price’s view on the perils of stardom. It really isn’t all its cracked up to be, “Now everything’s turned inside out/ They wanna put me on a big TV/ Everybody wants to know/ How I feel and what I think”.
Producer Simpson’s recent direction seems to have rubbed off on Price particularly in ‘Heartless’. There’s even a drum machine before Matt Sweeney’s searing guitar solo. Vocally Price matches everything the band hurls at her.
Adding to the lush production and band is the Nashville Friends Gospel Choir on the album’s twin peaks of ‘Hey Child’ and ‘What Happened to Our Love’. Their soaring harmonies propel Price to greater heights in both. Price merits every ounce of recognition and applause for the way she has never compromised. Few match her for sheer honesty about herself and the world around her. That’s How Rumors Get Started is a powerful album and Margo Price is one of the last artists to get hung up about musical genre but might she have kept just a little more of that earlier Americana sound?
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