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By Margo Price’s own admission, she spent more time planning out her first headlining concerts at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium than she spent planning her wedding.

And that makes sense. The Ryman stage is holy ground for an artist like Price: a young country singer with an old soul, who counts icons like Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn and Kris Kristofferson not only as heroes, but also now as friends.

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Price said two songs into her Saturday night concert at the Ryman – the first of three shows she’s set to play at the historic venue.

More: Margo Price tackles politics, social issues on fiery sophomore album 'All American Made'

She’s had more than a decade to seriously dream about her Ryman debut.

Price came to Nashville in 2003 and spent the next 13 years paying her dues in clubs all over town — and on the road — before breaking through in 2016 with her solo album “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.”

All of that planning and experience were on full display at the Ryman.

Price and her tight-knit band barely have stopped to catch their breath in the past two years, bouncing between the United States and Europe on bigger and bigger tours, and Saturday's show might have been the most elaborate they've ever played.

Bolstered by a string section and background vocalists, Price delved into a full-circle set: the kind that opened with her musical origin story (“Hands of Time”), included a song she used to play with her first band in Nashville (Buffalo Clover) and included a brand-new tune, “Revelations.”

“It’s about Jesus, if he was a traveling musician and had just gotten dropped by his label,” she explained.


There were surprise appearances from Nashville country outsider Sturgill Simpson (who played Conway Twitty to Price’s Loretta Lynn on a duet of “After the Fire is Gone”) and Lukas Nelson. Price, too, made cameo appearances of a sort — taking a turn behind several instruments on stage. 

Few musical moments fired up the crowd like the two times she hopped behind a secondary drum kit, leading the charge on a couple of thunderous rock jams. And she was no less at home with just a microphone and/or a tambourine, walking along the Ryman's strip of original stage wood on the soulful standout "A Little Pain."

Her most popular tunes were greeted by the Ryman crowd as if they were radio hits. On "Tennessee Song," all she had to do was belt out "Let's go back..." and the audience was already roaring, acknowledging their home state. 

As the end of the set neared, she livened up her debut single, "Hurtin' (On the Bottle)" with nods to other classic country drinking anthems: "Whiskey River" and "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink." But Price wasn't staying put: On the final number, she hopped off stage and sang while standing on top of one of the Ryman’s famed pews.

"Thank you, Nashville! I love you," she said. Of course, she and the band returned for an encore, culminating in a fun and faithful cover of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5."

Rising Americana singer-songwriter Tyler Childers opened Saturday's show with a set that had the crowd transfixed like few opening acts can (an appearance from Simpson didn't hurt, either). 

He walked off stage to ravenous applause, and for a moment, it seemed like the crowd could have coaxed him back out for an encore — a move that's pretty much unheard of for an opening act. Childers opted to keep the show on schedule, but there's plenty of reason to believe he could soon be headlining his own show at country music's mother church.



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