With her wise and tender new album finally due out last Friday, Margo Price woke up the other morning determined to focus on the positive.
Then she went to the grocery store.
"I drove to this one I like downtown -- it's pretty clean and everybody there wears a mask," the country-rock singer said in a phone call from her home outside Nashville. "But coming back up Broadway, there were a bunch of dumb tourists wandering around with straw hats and fanny packs and no masks on, like they don't have any idea what's going on."
You can understand her distress: In March, Price, 37, pushed her third LP, "That's How Rumors Get Started," from its original May 8 release date after her husband and guitarist, Jeremy Ivey, contracted COVID-19. (Price suspects that Ivey -- with whom she has a 10-year-old son, Judah, and a 1-year-old daughter, Ramona -- picked up the virus in late February in New York when the couple played the annual Tibet House benefit concert at Carnegie Hall.)
Caring for Ivey and their children put the demands of promotion far from Price's mind. Even now, with her husband having recovered -- Price herself was asymptomatic -- she's liable to steer a conversation away from music toward the alarming scarcity of Tennessee's intensive-care beds.
"I think the s -- 's about to hit the fan," she said of the pandemic -- and at a moment, of course, when nationwide protests against racial injustice are further elevating America's temperature. On Instagram, Price has been alternating photos of herself wearing a mask -- "I can't believe that's become a political act," she said -- with posts in support of Black Lives Matter, including one marking what would have been the 27th birthday of the late Breonna Taylor.
None of this figures explicitly into the songs on "That's How Rumors Get Started," which Price recorded in late 2018 at L.A.'s storied EastWest Studios with production help from her friend Sturgill Simpson.
Yet like her first two albums -- 2016's "Midwest Farmer's Daughter" and 2017's "All American Made," which led to a Grammy nomination for best new artist -- "Rumors" places private struggles in a broader social context; it's a record about hitting the bottle and about staying too long in a dead-end relationship that's also a record about sexism and income inequality.
"Some folks do and others preach," she sings over fuzzy electric guitar in the homily-ish "I'd Die for You," "Some learn hate that others teach."
To cut "That's How Rumors Get Started," Price's debut for Loma Vista Recordings after a stint on Jack White's Third Man label, the Illinois native convened a crack studio band that included drummer James Gadson (known for his work with Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye), bassist Pino Palladino (the Who, D'Angelo) and keyboardist Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers.