Margo Price is hot property of late and rightly so. The rave reviews for her debut album Midwest Farmers Daughter earlier in the year were followed by appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Saturday Night Live and Later with Jools Holland. The first Country artist to be signed to Jack White’s Third Man Record label, her album highlighted an ability to pen outstanding and mainly autobiographical songs and also placed the 32-year-old Illinois born Price (now residing in East Nashville) among the finest authentic female country vocalist of the present day. The album was also the first debut solo release by a female artist in history to enter the top ten in the Billbord Top Country Albums chart. However, it has not been overnight success by a long shot and her album details in no uncertain terms much of the tragedy and hardship she has encountered to date.
As a venue The Deaf Institute could hardly be more suitable, a medium sized room with a capacity of approximately three hundred. A noticeable sense of anticipation most certainly prevails prior to Price taking to the stage at 9pm.
Her backing band, The Pricetags, consist of electric guitar, acoustic guitar (played by her husband Jeremy Ivey), bass, drums and pedal steel and together with Price they deliver a seamless set that despite being over ninety minutes long passes in a flash. From the opening song Travel On to her final encore of Neil Young’s Old Ways Price owns the stage, making all the right moves, energetic, oozing confidence, visibly doting on the audience feedback but most of all showcasing her stunning vocal ability.
Understandably the majority of the set is taken from her album, mostly true to the studio versions with the exception of Desperate and Depressed which rocks out more that the studio take. This Town Gets Around (her take on Music City ("When I first came here the streets were paved with gold and you can walk that road I’ve been told, but I won’t put out or be controlled, I don’t write the shit that get bought and sold") is a delight. Her signature song, Hands of Time is immediately recognisable and greeted with applause from the first few notes even before her vocal kicks in, Tennessee and Weekender get similar treatment from a very engaged and enthusiastic audience. This gives the whole experience more of a Saturday night than Tuesday night feel.
Her covers are well chosen and pertinent, from the beautifully delivered Levon Helm song Dirt Farmer performed acoustically with price sharing vocals, to a rousing rendition of Gram Parson’s Ooh Las Vegas. Hurtin’ (On The Bottle), co-written with Caitlin Rose after a nights drinking, finishes the main set before encoring with the aforementioned Old Way. A fine way to close what had been a memorable concert.
Ironically Margo Price is most likely too "traditional country" to generate the airplay she deserves on country music radio these days. The tendency to lean towards a more diluted form of pop country is unfortunately leaving artists like Price struggling for radio airplay despite the plaudits being generated within the industry. This is reinforced by her inexplicable recent omission from the CMA 2016 nominations. The honesty of her song writing probably does her no favours on Music Row either, leaving her possibly approaching categorisation as a modern country outlaw artist in the company of her heroes Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Jessi Coulter.
However, on the basis of her performance this evening it will take more than a lack of exposure on commercial radio to deny Price the career her talent richly deserves. I may attend a better show this year but I seriously doubt it.
Review and photography by Declan Culliton