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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Show Review: Margo Price and the Price Tags

Margo Price: Midwestern Farmer's Daughter out on Third Man Records tomorrow.

Show Review:
 Margo Price and the Price Tags and the Outlaw Country Revival
Hotel Cafe, Los Angeles, CA.

  I was sitting in a San Diego court house, waiting for a case to be called, when I saw this Rolling Stone article announcing her debut LP, Midwest Farmer's Daughter.  It was September  18th of last year.   Immediately I thought of my significant other, who has been into country music in a completely non-ironic way since the beginning of our relationship 2 plues years ago.  Including, trips to Nashville, religiously watching the ABC television show, Nashville and going to the Stagecoach festival after Coachella two years in a row.  So I saw that the record was coming out on Third Man Records, owned by Jack White, who is also a client of her boss.  

  And almost immediately I Facebook messaged her and asked, "What are you even doing if you aren't managing this artist?"  Not something I'd ever done before, but I felt it was warranted, if only because the record was being released on a label owned by another client of her own firm.  Also, there was the fact that it was the perfect time to jump on board with a new artist, because someone else (Third Man Records) had already made the call.  So of course she got the job, so to speak, and for the last six months I've watched the run-up to tomorrow's release date for Midwest Farmers Daughter.

 Let me tell you, it has been a privilege to watch both Third Man Records, and my girlfriend's management company work their magic.  I was emotionally invested in the outcome.  Seeing her perform last night, for the first time, at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, I experienced a deep sense of satisfaction in everything that had come to pass for Margo Price in the last six months, and a great sense of excitement about that which was to come.

  Margo Price is an appealing artist on a number levels, primarily as an artist who can "write 'em and sing 'em" as another critic said.   Considering that Midwest Farmer's Daughter is self-recorded and produced, at Sun Studios, places her squarely on the "indie" level of Dirty Beaches, Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, Best Coast, Wavves or any of the bands that I've written about here over the last several years.   Before Third Man Records picked up Midwest Farmer's Daughter, Margo Price was essentially a local music scenester.  She had had brushes with artists who had emerged (Sturgill Simpson), but had failed to attract any interest from artist development professionals in Nashville.  I think it is fair to observe that she had been overlooked and dismissed by the Country Music establishment in Nashville.

  And yet, despite the 100% DIY origins of Midwest Farmer's Daughter, the end product and accompanying live show defy any attempt to limit Margo Price as an "indie" artist.   Both her voice and song writing are fully mature.  Perhaps the song writing has not reached its full potential (this is a debut LP) but the voice I heard last night is ready to go now.  Like Top 40, Country Music Awards, Coachella, Stagecoach Festival ready to go right now.   So is the stage show.  Her backing bacd, The Price Tags, perform like seasoned touring veterans and have exactly zero of the problems with professionalism that are often associated with young break-out artists on there first twirl of the music industry merry-go-round.

  What I saw last night is an artist squarely within the Outlaw Country tradition in the best possible way, who is being managed by music industry insiders and being released by an artist owned independent label.  In other words, she is poised for the kind of breakout success that only comes around every few years.  I know that even before the record comes out, because I know what kind of offers she is getting for the live show (she's on Conan tonight if you are interested) and those offers mean that this record will get active promotion at least through the middle of next year.   She will get the chance to play the UK and Europe, if not Australia, within the touring cycle.  She will get a second a LP that is well financed.

  It's not clear if she will sell records.  Fingers crossed on that one, but I'd have to say just based on where she is in terms of social media demographics- 5000 Facebook friends- huge sales may be unrealistic.   But the upwards trajectory is firmly in place even before the release of the record, and low record sales, will, if anything, simply make what is yet to come look even more in comparison. For better or worse, record sales are only a piece of the pie.  In fact, their most important role for young artist these days is simply being good enough to attract continued investment and attention from the stake holders in their careers, the labels, managers, publishers, etc.

  More than anyone besides Margo Price, Third Man Records deserves credit for taking up a 100% local Nashville artist, and one who had essentially been denied by the powers that be, and securing her the attention she would have only gotten by virtue of being released by Third Man Records.  To take a chance on Margo Price defies the music industry "wisdom" that artists who stay within a local scene for too long a time are not worth investing in.

  I know this to be true because I myself wrestle with that very attitude, which to say, that I have totally succumbed to it in my own home markets of San Diego and Los Angeles.  Now if a band stays local for any length of time I take it as a sign that they are not worth paying attention to.  Sad, but true in my case, and obviously true for those who are firmly ensconced within the music industry.   Third Man has turned that wisdom on it's head, and they fully deserve to share in Margo's triumph.  The pairing is an example of what can go right between and artist and a label.

  In conclusion, I found Margo Price and the Price Tags show to be deeply satisfying.  She is fantastic life, and when she gets out there on the road you are going to want to see her songs performed live.  She is in capable hands on all professional levels, and you can be sure that if you are wondering if your time investment in getting to know Margo Price as an artist will be repaid, the answer is yes, with interest.

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