Margo Price Credit: Bobby Rich

On her new third album, That’s How Rumors Get Started, Margo Price spins her modern outlaw-country sound into golden strands of pop-friendly Americana, tackling her critics, rock ’n’ roll mythology, and expectations of success. The LP, which was produced by fellow country renegade Sturgill Simpson, showcases Price’s knack for storytelling that pulls at the heartstrings; its lush, midtempo songs contain tales of love, hope, heartbreak, resilience, and promise despite the uncertainty of change. But she hasn’t lost any of the bite from her first two albums, and that rollicking, stinging side comes out on southern-blues stompers such as “Prisoner of the Highway” and “Twinkle, Twinkle,” which echoes elements of “Tennessee Song” from her 2016 debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. “If it don’t break you / It might just make you rich,” she warns with an airy twang on the latter. “You might not get there / And on the way it’s a bitch.” Growing pains are called that for a reason. Starting with the album’s opening title track, Price traces her personal trajectory with grace and ire, weaving narratives around her experiences of family and loss with observations of the harrowing realities of the American health-care system, gentrification, and motherhood. Price is outspoken in interviews and on social media, and despite the conservative bent of the country-music scene, she’s never disguised her liberal politics—which has made her a target for trolls who demand artists “stick to the music.” She’s always been ready with a kiss-off, but her takedowns on That’s How Rumors Get Started are less reactive and more intentional and controlled. “Call me a bitch / Then call me baby,” she sings on “Stone Me,” and then delivers an angel-voiced taunt: “You don’t own me / You don’t know me / That’s no way to stone me. Though the first half of the album draws from a similar expanse of roots music that influenced her 2017 album, All American Made, on the album’s b-side, Price shakes up country tradition to explore new territory, musically and vocally. Acoustic guitars and piano are washed away on the new wave-inspired “Heartless Mind,” which feels like a nod to Simpson’s own genre-melding 2019 release Sound & Fury. In contrast to “Hey Child,” the organ-driven, gospel-tinged ode to feeling directionless that precedes it, on “Heartless Mind” Price’s honeyed vocals dance atop a whirring foundation of synths and snapping percussion. She reaches new heights with her soft yet powerful voice on “What Happened to Our Live,” and on closing number “I’d Die for You” she makes the type of fist-in-the-air declaration of love that you’d find in a Bruce Springsteen song. Haters beware—you’ll have to try harder to break the mighty Margo Price.   v