Country singer Margo Price was the latest artist to visit downtown Blacksburg as part of the Live at the Lyric concert series. The Lyric, which has recently hosted artists such as Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega, Justin Townes Earle, and Sara Watkins of the band Nickel Creek, provides a convenient and affordable live music experience for Virginia Tech students and members of the Blacksburg community alike.
When I spotted a poster for the Margo Price concert in a store window while walking downtown, I was surprised. I was unaware that the Lyric even had concerts (I thought it just showed movies), but I was immensely mistaken. I found out that the Lyric indeed hosts a wide variety of talented musicians, including rising star Margo Price, whose debut solo album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter was named the second best country album of 2016 by Entertainment Weekly.
Although Margo has started gaining recognition for her music in recent years, the Illinois native has become a veteran of the Nashville music scene after relocating 13 years ago. She has released three albums with the band Buffalo Clover and is known for her blend of country, rock, and Americana. Her vocal talents and assortment of musical influences were on full display on the Lyric stage, Friday, February 24th.
First, opener Jonny Fritz, along with fiddler and backing vocalist Joshua Hedley, took to the stage adorned in a pink suit and acoustic guitar. His quirky style only paled in comparison to his unique lyrics and themes as he sang songs from his latest album, Sweet Creep. In his distinctive nasally tenor, Jonny crafted tales that highlight the life of a touring musician as well as the mundane realities of every day, including an entire song about forgetting to take out the trash and one about how everything is not as it seems on social media. Despite Jonny and Margo sharing some similarities (mostly both having a traditional sound), Jonny was an interesting choice for an opener. While he was more laid-back, Margo’s music while soft at times, could also be intense.
In a cozy venue nearly filled with attendees of all ages, Margo’s voice filled the room and soared above it. She sang several tracks from Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, most (if not all) of them autobiographical, including the album opener “Hands of Time,” which details the trials of her life, including her father losing the family farm and her losing a child, in a sprawling country song that sounds like a classic. In fact, Margo sounds like she is from another era, a simpler time when honky-tonk artists like Patsy Cline or Loretta Lynn could be heard playing from jukeboxes.
“This Town,” a rollicking ditty about the dirty underbelly of the Nashville music scene, was another standout. While Margo played the role of a broken-hearted boozer while performing her most well-known song “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle),” she also sold the outlaw persona as she sang “Weekender,” about a weekend stint in the country jail. After all, Margo’s lived it all and now in the true country music way, wants to share her stories with the rest of us in the form of song.
Along with her own tracks, Margo also sang a few covers with the help of her backing band, the aptly-named Price Tags. She honored the greats like Billy Joe Shaver and George Harrison and also honored her band by allowing them to jam out while she briefly left the stage (and joked about sneaking a shot of tequila backstage when she returned). After she wrapped up her set and walked offstage, she didn’t leave the crowd waiting for long before she returned for an encore of not one, but three more songs. If you thought the party was over, it was actually just beginning, as Margo traded in her guitar for a tambourine, which shook as much as the fringe on her dress, to dance and interact with the audience. Concertgoers were invited to leave their seats and move closer to the stage, and many began to loosen up and dance to the rhythm. Eventually the party really was over, and Margo and her band took a final bow before leaving the stage.
By attending my first concert at the Lyric, I gained an appreciation for both the people who worked hard to make an event like this possible and for artists like Margo Price who are reviving an old country style and making it sound fresh and new again.