Credit: Bobbi Rich
by Josh Hurst Music Rooted & Restless

Margo Price | Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman

January 23, 2021

Margo’s latest strikes the perfect balance of intimacy and spectacle.

Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman captures Margo Price at an inflection point. The album was recorded in 2018, during a three-night residency at country music’s mother church, with Price still riding high on the success of her rugged and rootsy All American Made. And yet, the album wasn’t released until 2020’s COVID lockdown, in the midst of what should have been the rollout for Price’s delightfully venomous rock and roll record, That’s How Rumors Get Started. Listening to the 50-minute live set now, it’s not difficult to hear Price gesturing in both directions: She and her band are faithful but not overly reverential stewards of country tradition, happy to reach back into its hallowed songbook but restless when they stay there too long. The songs include a few standouts from the first two Margo Price albums plus some well-curated covers, but it’s not hard to imagine a couple of That’s How Rumors Get Started selections sliding into the sequence.

Actually, though all three of her studio albums are great, this live set most clearly demonstrates the breadth of her talent. It’s a rangy and free-wheeling program that finds space for a barreling, slash-and-burn rendition of Rodney Crowell’s  “Ain’t Livin Long Like This,” a swooning “waltz” version of Price’s own “A Little Pain,” and a graceful, weepy take of “Wild Women” with living legend Emmylou Harris on vocals. Jack White’s here, too, for a faintly Springsteenian anthem called “Honey, We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap.” Elsewhere, Price defuses some of the latent dad-rock inclinations in her source material; listen to how she leads her firecracker band through “Fortunate Son,” building it from a lazy riverboat ride to a blazing country-rock conclusion. Here and throughout the album, Price gets the right balance of intimacy and spectacle, though she leans wholly toward the former on the finishing “World’s Greatest Loser”— only recently displaced by “I‘d Die for You” as the perfect Price closer.

Published as part of Album Roundup: Oct. – Dec. 2020 | Part 5.