Review: Margo Price Defies Expectations on ‘Strays’

Margo Price

Videos by American Songwriter


Loma Vista Recordings

4 out of 5 stars

I’ve got nothing to prove, is the first thing you hear from Margo Price in the opening song of her new record, Strays. It’s an apt introduction, given that Price makes a point to curb expectation at every turn on this album.

The opener, “Been To The Mountain,” is cinematic in scope. Before Price comes in, 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 moody, atmospheric nature of the record can be chalked up to an extended mushroom trip Price and her husband/frequent collaborator Jeremy Ivey took in South Carolina. While expanding their minds by way of psychedelia, the pair listened to the likes of Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Under the influence in more ways than one, Price once again broadened her sonic scope, pushing the boundaries of her country identity.

The theses of Strays are as meandering as the title suggests. She explores everything from her own backstory to abortion rights to the female orgasm. The songs are at the same time deeply introspective and cutting social commentaries.

Price has help along the way in her pursuit, tapping the likes of Sharon Van Etten for “Radio” (which features one of the most tantalizing lines of the whole record: The only thing I have on is the radio), Mike Campbell for “Light Me Up” and Lucius for “Anytime You Call.” Each of the featured artists bolsters Price’s new sonic direction.

Price distinguishes herself as a storyteller on Strays – perhaps more so than ever before. She extends songs like “Lydia” or “County Road” into expanded 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 palpable emotion, At the clinic, wonderin’ what your face would be like / Mascara bleedin’ to my eyes / Tied like a dog on a chain with a midlife crisis and an ex husband / Sneaking a Marlboro Ultra Light I stole from a nurse out there in the alley / Halfway home is where the heart is and I’m halfway home.

Strays further solidifies the idea that Price should be free to experiment. “I feel this urgency to keep moving, keep creating,” she offered of her creative process in a statement. “You get stuck in the
same patterns of thinking, the same loops of addiction. But there comes a point where you
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
stock into checking the boxes for everyone else.'”

Price breaks down any barriers left around her on this record to great appeal. 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

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