Margo Price, Brighton Music Hall, Boston, MA- 11/11
To get the full effect, you really should see Margo Price at a roadhouse just off the highway, with sawdust on the floorboards and a fight brewing over by the cigarette machine. But this being Boston, the next best thing to a roadhouse is Brighton Music Hall, with its low ceiling and open floor, two bars up front and one in back by the pool tables.
Price and her crackerjack band of six fellas brought their traveling road show to the sold-out Boston venue near the end of a string of headlining shows across the country this fall. Price is often slotted as a country artist, but is really closer to the crossover between country, Americana and rock embodied by someone like Emmylou Harris, who is clearly an influence on the Illinois-born Price.
Wearing jeans, t-shirt and cowboy hat, Price hit the stage to the strains of “Swarmin’,” a Jerry Reed number. She and her denim-clad band took a few tunes to loosen up, but by the time they reached “Tennessee Song” they were in a groove. With all the attention paid to Price’s pitch-perfect Nashville voice and poet’s pen, her band may be her secret weapon, for they provide the kick in the pants that make a lot of her tunes – “Black Rose” (by Billy Joe Shaver), “Paper Cowboys,” “Red Bandana” (a Merle Haggard cover), “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” – rollick on stage.
“It’s been a long week,” Price said at one point, in a nod to the recent elections. “But I do have a song that may be fitting. It’s called ‘Desperate and Depressed.’” She also paid tribute to the recently departed Leonard Cohen with a poignant cover of “Passing Through,” a song written by Dick Blakeslee but long associated with Cohen.
Many of the tunes on Price’s album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter pack a wallop, sometimes throughout the entire song song and sometimes via a line or a thought or a sentiment. “But my firstborn died,” she sang on “Hands of Time,” midway through her set, “and I cried out to God/is there anybody out there/looking down on me/at all?” Later, she prefaced “The Weekender” by saying, “This is about the time I went to jail,” and noted that “This Town Gets Around” has more than a passing resemblance to her early experiences in the music industry.
Price and company closed out their set in high spirits, with a nasty “Four Years of Chances” sandwiched between covers of “Me and Bobby McGee” and Rodney Crowell’s “I Ain’t Living Long Like This.” They head off to Europe in January, and here’s betting that they will be playing some larger venues when they return to American shores next year.