Margo Price might eventualy get sick of being compared to Loretta Lynn, but the similarities are unmistakable. From the title of Price’s album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, to lyrics telling stories of her hard-knocks and picking herself back up and the power and vulnerability in her voice—it’s all a tip of the hat to the coal miner’s daughter from Butcher’s Holler. But, the show that patrons at The State Room saw last night was actually a nod to all of “real country music,” and as the night progressed, it was evident that her opening act William Tyler had it right when he told the crowd that Price is “saving country music—one night at a time.”
Price and her band (including a pedal steel player and a keyboardist who could honky-tonk with the best of them, with a side of accordion as needed) made a proper country music entrance—first, the band walked onto The Rolling Stones “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and then with intro music and an introduction, Price strode onstage in a stunning black, white and red dress that would have fit right in at the Opry thirty years ago—if only it had a few more sequins.
The nods to classic country continued through the night, as she weaved in covers to a setlist heavy with songs from her debut album on Jack White’s Nashville-based label. Merle Haggard, Doug Sahm (Ms. Price was surprised that some in the crowd knew who he was), Kris Kristofferson (“Probably the sexiest man alive at 80,” Price said), George Jones and, of course, Loretta Lynn were all covered through the evening. But even with those familiar songs, Price truly shined when singing her own material.
During the autobiographical “Hands of Time,” the singer-songwriter delivered a heart-wrenching delivery. And before “Weekender,” Price told the crowd, “This is a more up-tempo song about the time I went to jail. Everyone has one of those, right? Or two…” and during her closing number “This Town Gets Around”—a Kitty Wells-esque scathing review of the Nashville industry with lyrics like, “It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow that’ll get you in the show” the house lights came on—Price strolled through the crowd standing near the stage.
“This is a fun city,” Price said as she came back onstage for her two-song encore, “Damn good crowd.” And together the crowd and Price did indeed save country music. At least for one night.