Authenticity in the context of commercial goods and services has always been a strange concept to me. Is something better if it's "authentic?" If authenticity becomes the focal point of how something is marketed and sold, what are the implications of that? This idea surfaces frequently with food and travel, where people (including myself at times, admittedly) will go out of their way to try to find the real version of a certain dish or a city. As savvy business people catch on to this, the future version of touristy t-shirt shops in Times Square could be an ever increasing amount of new restaurants trying to out hole-in-the-wall each other.
One review of Margo Price's Midwest Farmer's Daughter that I encountered argues that the album is pushing so hard to be authentic that it can come across as forced. While I don't agree with that, it's certainly the case that Price goes full "outlaw country" here with some hard-edged, highly personal stories. The subject matter runs the gamut from alcohol abuse, weekend stays in prison, and not putting up with her exes' shit anymore; at one point, she sings "I'll be desperate and depressed until I die."
"Hands of Time," the album's opener, serves as a condensed autobiography, running through several painful moments in her life and juxtaposing those with her humble aspirations. It's a beautiful song, with grand sense of scope and some great string instrumentation. Another standout for me is "This Town Gets Around," which directly confronts the seedier side of the music business. Generally speaking, however, I didn't find a lot in this album that stuck with me, outside of Price's voice and perspective. With a few exceptions, the music backing her up felt a little simplistic, causing some of the songs to feel a bit same-y for my tastes. She's clearly talented, though, and for what it's worth, I can't say that she isn't authentic.