Friday, March 22, 2013

Ashley Monroe "Like A Rose" Album Review

     Ashley Monroe might be better known for her work in the all girl super-group the Pistol Annies, but she sets out to prove she can hold her own on her latest album Like A Rose.  Stepping out and making a solo record is risky but rewarding move.  How did it work out for Ashley?
     Like A Rose is a knockout.  From start to finish this is another solid country release in 2013.  This is already shaping up to be a huge year in quality music, and Ashley is smack dab in the middle of it with her solo album and the upcoming Pistol Annies follow-up.  After a long stretch of male dominance on radio and sales, women like Ashley, Holly Williams, Kacey Musgraves, Kellie Pickler, and Miranda Lambert are making strides in getting the women with traditional sounds back to prominence in the mainstream world.  I've been a fan of Ashley's for a while, from her first solo album to her work on "Old Enough" with The Ratcontuers and Ricky Skaggs, to the Pistol Annies.  I've been excited to see what she would do on her own again, and boy was the wait worth it.
     Like A Rose starts off with a bang with the title track, an honest, in your face look at a troubled life and the blessings that can come from it.  It is solid country story telling at its best.  Ashley sounds great, and Vince Gill works as producer and background vocalist.  Anyone who is anyone knows Vince can harmonize like no other, so the pairing sounds wonderful.  This is the first single, and the accompanying video is simple and pure, and is a nice addition to a solid track.

   The album has many stories woven through.  "The Morning After" is a great take on the pain felt after a break-up, likening it to a bad hangover.  This is a fresh sound on an old idea and it is great.  "Two Weeks Late" tells the story of a hard luck girl and her struggles with making rent and dealing with a baby she can't afford while her man runs off.  Heard that before? Of course.  But once again, this is a fresh take and it sounds new, even if the idea is cliche.  She even calls it a cliche in the song, so she knows whats up. "Monroe Suede" is a rollicking honky-tonker about an outlaw girl.  It may be my favorite song on the album, it is just a ton of fun to crank up and sing along to, and really that's what songs like this are all about.

     Ashley's sweet vocals really give a lot of emotion as well.  Songs like "Used" and "You Got Me" are emotional and real, while clever enough to warrant second and third listenings.  "She's Driving You Out of My Mind" is my other personal favorite on this album, with clever lyrics and great vocals, its a tender country weeper.  This kind of song would have been epically huge in the late 80's or early 90's on the radio.  It's creative and contemporary, yet classic.  It's really just great, give it a listen.

     Ashley shows off her fun and witty side in "Weed Instead of Roses", with provocative lyrics about a wild night in with her man.  "You Ain't Dolly (And You Ain't Porter)" is a fun duet with Blake Shelton to close the album.  They play off each other so well, Ashley's sass meshes seamlessly with Blake's smart-assyness.  The song is straight-up old school country.  Blake may be trying to win back some of the traditionalists support with this one, and I say great.  If his comments result in more music like this to appease the old farts and jackasses like me, then I say we win.  I give him credit for working to restore his image.  

     The biggest issue with this album is that it's too darn short!!  9 songs aren't nearly enough for me!  I want 29!  Ashley went with the tried and true mantra of less is more.  I have a feeling this strategy was taken to maximize the good songs, and not pad it down with filler.  I respect that, but man I could listen to more like this all day.  

    Ashley Monroe used her Pistol Annies fame to get a great album out there, and I thank her for it.  I highly recommend Like A Rose, go get a copy. It's a classic country album with heart, soul, and stories.  That's what I'm all about.  Ashley Monroe keeps it country, kids.

Standout Tracks: "Like A Rose", "She's Driving You Out of My Mind", "Monroe Suede"

Like A Rose

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