Nashville-via-Illinois country crooner finds her voice

If you want to know the story of Margo Price, just queue up “Hands of Time,” the first track off the country singer's debut album, Midwest Farmer's Daughter, recorded at legendary Sun Studio in Memphis and released last year on Jack White's Third Man Records. The song begins with Price leaving the small Illinois town in which she grew up and where her “daddy lost the farm” when she was 2 years old.

Price struck out for Nashville in 2003 (“started singing in the bars and running with the men”) and eventually “settled down with a married man.” But after giving birth to twin sons, she lost one to a rare heart condition just a couple of weeks later. That loss is the heartbreaking emotional centerpiece of a song and story that doesn't lack for emotion. “My firstborn died and I cried out to God / Is there anybody out there looking down on me at all?” she sings.

Evoking classic country singer-songwriters like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn more than modern-day Music Row hit-makers, Price sounds entirely like herself even while paying homage to the past. “All I want to do is make my own path,” she sings in the final refrain of “Hands of Time.” By the end of the song, her mission is already accomplished. (Safe bet)