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Ashley Monroe Reveals a Darker, Funnier Side on Her New CD "Like A Rose"
Singer/songwriter Ashley Monroe might be better known as the songwriter of Jason Aldean's huge hit "The Truth," Miranda Lambert's "Heart Like Mine," or as a member of the all-girl trio the Pistol Annies. But country music fans will soon discover her as a solo artist on her Warner Bros. debut CD "Like A Rose."
From a songwriting stand-point, Ashley Monroe has long demonstrated an old soul. Her lyrics and melodies typically reflect an era of country music not heard of since the late 1960's and early 1970's. Similarly her voice and style could easily share the same billing with a Sammi Smith or Tammy Wynette, a Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton, even an Emmylou Harris or Donna Fargo.
So when news leaked out that Monroe's newest CD was going to be produced by Nashville legend and faithful country music historian Vince Gill, I could almost taste the butter on the homemade biscuits. But a listen through the 9-song release "Like A Rose" proved to be more than a mouthful of musical surprises.
If you tune out the lyrics and just take in the sound of the new recordings, your palate will be pleased with the smorgasbord of classic country melodies, instrumentation, and style. But when you pay closer attention to the words you find a much darker, and funnier, side to this 26-year-old native of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Ashley Monroe - Like A Rose (Official Video)
Download the title track "Like A Rose" by Ashley Monroe from Amazon.com
The title track tells a seemingly autobiographical tale of a girl who has experienced her share of life's ups and downs (mostly downs) but still manages to blossom into a fragrant and beautiful flower. But that's where the CD takes a sharp right turn lyrically.
Track two is the catchy "Two Weeks Late," a tale of premarital sex and the potential pregnancy that results.
"Used" aches of a hard life that may or may not be on the upswing, but tries hard at self-convincing that a happy ending is just around the corner.
The fourth cut, "Weeds Instead Of Roses," has that signature 1990's Vince Gill sound with a pounding drum and honky tonk piano - but from a lyrical stand-point it's quite the shocker as Monroe begs her lover to get drunk and high and break out the whips, chains, and whipped cream.
Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Ashley Monroe)
Monroe (who along with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley form the trio Pistol Annies) wrote or co-wrote all nine songs on the CD including "You Got Me." One of the most traditional love songs on the album, the haunting Dobro sets the mood for a romantic encounter with a hint of loneliness.
Track six features beautiful harmonies by Gill and tells the tale of the "Morning After" and the loss of innocence at an age far too young.
"Monroe Suede" continues the theme of another young woman forced to grow up earlier than most as the title character goes on a run from her youth and from authority.
"Like A Rose" by Ashley Monroe
Download the full CD "Like A Rose" by Ashley Monroe from Amazon.com
My two favorites on the CD are the title track and the heart-breaking "She's Driving Me Out of Your Mind," which details an inevitable break-up the result of another woman. For my tastes I would have welcomed seven more songs of this style and personality.
The CD finishes with a song co-written by Monroe and her producer called "You Ain't Dolly (You Ain't Porter)" which had huge potential. Unfortunately it doesn't live up to expectations. The tune survives the pairing of Monroe with Blake Shelton (the husband of Monroe's former roommate Miranda Lambert), but lyrically the song falls off the deep end not long after the obligatory reference to Dolly's biggest assets. It even pulls out seemingly random references to both "The Voice" TV show (which features Shelton) and the "50 Shades Of Gray" book in the final verse.
As a fan of Ashley Monroe, I'll hold onto the glimpses of goodness on her newest CD and look forward to her next effort - with hopefully a little less dark comedy and a little more timeless emotion.