Jessi Colter
Chris Phelps

Jessi Colter Thought She Had Made Her Farewell Album. Then She Met Margo Price

The First Lady of Outlaw Country returns with "Edge of Forever."

For all intents and purposes, 2017's The Psalms was supposed to be the farewell album for Jessi Colter. Then the First Lady of Outlaw Country crossed paths with fellow rule breaker Margo Price.

"I remember going to see her play a show in Arizona four or five years ago," Colter tells Wide Open Country. "In the green room, her and Jeremy [Ivey, Price's husband] were telling me how great it'd be if I did another album. I'd been writing and had a backlog of material, so a few days later we met for dinner and I showed her a few of them. She loved them so much that I began to reconsider her offer, and less than a year later we started work on it."

Out Oct. 27, Edge of Forever sees Colter rearrange old covers, dust off originals written long ago and share stories from the most recent chapters of her life to a mix of country, psychedelic rock and gospel that only the ever-evolving Price could provide. Working in tandem with her and most of backing band The Price Tags — Ivey (harmonica), Micah Hulscher (piano, organ) Dillon Napier (drums), Kevin Black (bass), Luke Schneider (pedal steel, dobro) and Jamie Davis (guitar), among others — the record is acts as an olive branch further connecting country music's rich past with its present. According to Price, it was an opportunity that she herself couldn't pass up as a lifelong fan of Colter as well.

"When the force of nature that is Jessi Colter rolled into my life and picked me up in her Mercedes convertible, I knew I was in for a wild ride," Price said in a press release. "When I felt lost, I could call on her and she would pray for me — with me. Jessi has such a strong faith, it's inspiring to be near her. When she sang 'Standing on the Edge of Forever' and 'Angel in the Fire' back to back for me, I was blown away. It was such refined writing, the work of someone who had been continuously, quietly honing her craft. I knew she had to make another album and told her I would love to be a part of that experience."

Growing up with a Pentecostal minister mother who had her playing piano at tent revivals from an early age, it comes as no surprise how central religion and gospel music are to Colter's songwriting and sound. She leaned fully into that area of influence on The Psalms; and although she takes a step back from it on Edge of Forever, its imprint can still be felt throughout. 

There's no better example of this than on "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus," a James Cleveland cover that Colter rearranged and made minor lyrical adjustments to. Inspired by both her mother and the Black church services she attended in Nashville for years, the jubilant tune features grand, gospel choir-like harmonies mixed with a heavy dose of harmonica-led twang as Colter stands at the pulpit and delivers her sermon.

"It's a joyous song about Christ and what he's meant to me," says Colter. "It was such a fun song to record because I still have that rhythm in me from childhood, and I love the group harmonies in the chorus. It's one of the truest songs I've recorded as far as I'm concerned. Nobody can do you like our Lord and Savior can do you."

However, for all of the joy wrapped up in Edge of Forever there's an equal level of tribulation. On "Fine Wine" — a co-write between Price and Colter's daughter, Jenni Eddy Jennings — Colter opens up about her everlasting love for ex-husband Waylon Jennings over 20 years removed from his death and her ability to find love again. Earlier this year, the artist remarried, showing that it's never too late to love or be loved again an idea she likens in the ballad to the heightened value of wine the more it ages, as she sings:

"Like a fine wine
I'm gettin' better with time
Maybe weathered by the years
Stronger in my mind."

"I've not been one to tell my story or grieve in public, but I love that song," says Colter. "It paints a great picture of how that feels. Last year, I remarried to a fine man who was also widowed for 20 years. He has great strength, and I needed that. It's been a great blessing to have that at this time in my life."

Although not from her own experience, this trend continues on "With or Without You," a story about a friend of Colter's in Arizona who was stood up by her fiance at the altar, leaving her to pick up the pieces and care for her friend in the aftermath. The song also acts as the opposite feeling caught up in "Without You" from Colter's 1976 album Jessi, approaching the strained relationship from a more spiteful perspective rather than one of heartbreak. This variance can be heard throughout, from lyrics like "I hear you're going away / I've come here to beg you to stay" from the original to "With or without you, babe / I'm gonna live my life" from its follow-up.

"Despite her heartbreak, she was the kind of person who knew how to move ahead, which is what inspired me to write the song," says Colter. "I love [Bob] Dylan, so I pulled in his line 'It must be wrong if it's not right' [from 'You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go']. It's got this kick-butt attitude of 'If this is how you're gonna treat me, then I'll just go on without you.'"

In many ways, the attitude embodied by Colter's friend in "With or Without You" isn't far off from the artist's own outlaw mentality with her music when it comes to writing her truth and arranging it the way she wants no matter what others think of it. In that sense, Edge of Forever is some of the trailblazer's best work yet. Through its stories of faith, loss and self-discovery, she not only lays out a path for hope but also proves that she's still got it.

"Sometimes we don't value the things we're gifted at as much as others do," says Colter. "I never was driving to be seen, known or have a lot of attention. I was just writing as a way to express my feelings, and it felt so good. A turning point came with my song 'I'm Not Lisa.' So many little girls sent me tapes of them singing it back in the day. If a child hears and can understand it, then you know you've communicated something."

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