Music

music review

At Brighton Music Hall, Margo Price shows she can be different things, sometimes all at once

Margo Price performed during a concert at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in September.

Terry Wyatt/ Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum

Margo Price performed during a concert at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in September.

One would presume that a country artist who covers the Meters and Leonard Cohen would approach her chosen genre with an eclectic sensibility, if not an omnivorous one. But except for those self-contained hat-tips to New Orleans funk and the late poet-troubadour, Margo Price spent the duration of Friday’s sold-out Brighton Music Hall show sticking fiercely to her vision of a throwback homage to the era of Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard, a time when the full genre name included “and western” and the ideal venue was a cowboy bar not an arena.

Price made the Lynn comparisons explicit with a spirited “Rated X,” but they also came out in the hard-shuffling jailhouse romp “Weekender,” the honky-tonk strut of “About To Find Out,” and “This Town Gets Around,” which had a skip in its step and a snarl on its lip. She hit a lot of the same notes in “Tennessee Song,” a stomp that also managed to swirl, courtesy of space-rock keyboards and a nearly acid-tinged pedal steel guitar.

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As that song showed, Price could be many different things, sometimes all at once. With its wide-stepped lope and hard swing, “Since You Put Me Down” was hard-drinking and vengeful but also heartbroken, while “Desperate and Depressed” expressed an almost cheery despondency. And “Hurtin’ (on the Bottle)” was simultaneously free-wheeling and centered.

Marked by a tight twang with an anodized gleam, Price’s voice was almost enough to justify anything she did, purely by itself. Without doing anything with or to it to make it shine — no showoffy tricks, no artifice, no push for power — it simply came out as an elemental fact. So it was frustrating some of her own songwriting was just barely strong enough to be worthy of it. Solid song-level themes and stories were too often built on individual lines that hit dully; there was little in the words of “Four Years of Chances” that transcended the template of countless songs of its type.

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But they were just the scaffolding for what Price built around them. With the band behind her galvanizing the song’s dismissive contempt, the singer effortlessly radiated attitude. That, a voice and a sound were enough to carry her. Add sharper writing and Price will float.

With a high, laconic baritone and a prime stance of semi-stoic fatalism, Hugh Masterson opened with a fetching, solo-acoustic set of small-town ballads of existential heartbreak.

Music review

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Margo Price, with Hugh Masterson

At: Brighton Music Hall, Friday

Marc Hirsh can be reached at officialmarc@gmail.com or on Twitter @spacecitymarc
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