Midwest Farmer's Daughter isn't merely an autobiographical title for the retro country singer/songwriter Margo Price, it's a nice tip of the hat to one of her primary inspirations, Loretta Lynn. The connections between the two country singers don't end there. Toward the end of her career, the Coal Miner's Daughter wound up collaborating with Jack White for 2004's Van Lear Rose, and White's Third Man Records provides a launching pad for Price, releasing her self-financed solo debut as-is as Midwest Farmer's Daughter. Spare and lean like Loretta in her prime, Price nevertheless writes with the studied precision of a modern Americana songwriter; even when she gets explicitly autobiographical, as she does on the opening "Hands of Time," it doesn't play as confession ripped from the soul, it plays as poetry. Similarly, when she tightens the screws so her song turns into something sleek, it doesn't play as Music City precision, it feels savvy and personal, surprising with its light hint of funk and Price's clear, plaintive, and powerful vocal. This tension between the head and heart, between the country and the city, is what fuels Midwest Farmer's Daughter, placing it on a warm, hazy plane that feels simultaneously sophisticated and down-home. Part of this dichotomy is due to Price's singing: she sounds like the Illinois girl that she is, possessing a voice that's pretty, plain, and unadorned, carrying an innocence that cuts against the worldliness of her songs. Her band, though, provides her songs with a genuine honky tonk kick, but even when the album drifts toward the traditional -- as it does on "Hurtin' (On the Bottle)" or "Four Years of Chances" -- Price's sensibility is modern, turning these old-fashioned tales of heartbreak, love, loss, and perseverance into something fresh and affecting.
Midwest Farmer's Daughter Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine