Jan 12, 2023
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By Chris Thiessen

On the penultimate track of Strays, we meet Lydia—a Marlboro-smoking victim of gentrification and abuse, wondering if she’ll ever be anything but “trailer trash.” Margo Price invites us to see her as she is: broken, vilified, conflicted, hurting, surrounded by substance abuse, human. It’s the type of God-forsaken situation that can hardly be sung about, and so Price hardly does. She neglects to rhyme and barely carries a tune, letting her words flow stream-of-consciousness and just sit beside it all. In her unwillingness to sugarcoat, Price offers dignity with unimpeachable grace. The rest of Strays is for people just like Lydia, a rumbling collection of supremely solid rock and roll filled with resistance anthems and good times.

Like fellow establishment country stray Jason Isbell, Price makes a move here from a more traditional country sound to instead draw on the tradition of rock greats who could tap into the most earnest feelings of humanity and turn them into roaring musical exhilaration. This Price does from the get-go on opener “Been to the Mountain,” where she evokes the spirit of a Sunday preacher, screaming in effect “I contain multitudes” over a fuzzy blues riff that feels like it couldn’t have been recorded anywhere but Tom Petty’s California canyons. Price offers redemption from small town dread like Bruce Springsteen, trading in his dirty hood for a “Time Machine” or just the sweet sounds of the “Radio,” where she’s joined by fellow classic rock enthusiast Sharon Van Etten.

On the album’s closing track, “Landfill,” Price sings, “They say ‘it takes time to become timeless’/But time is all I’ve got this time.” Every bit of Strays—the excellence in lyricism, instantly classic riffs, the soul-bearing warmth Price exudes—is a testament to that and to the fact that our need to see each other wholly, empathetically is of eternal importance. (

Author rating: 8/10

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