I will simply start this review by saying if you haven’t bought this CD yet – or are having any doubts as to whether you will or not – Stop. Go to your local retailer that sells music, or log on to your favorite online site and get this disc – NOW.
OK. With that out of the way, I will start this review with a little bit of a confession. Earlier this year, Warner released a new single from Ashley Monroe titled “On To Something Good.” It was fun, infectious, and with its’ uptempo beat – a perfect song for spring. Still, I guess I was a little bit let down – not in the quality. But, it felt like Monroe might be moving a little bit toward a more commercial sound in hopes of getting Top-40 Country airplay. After all, Like A Rose, her 2013 disc was chock-full of the kind of songs that would just literally make you stop in your tracks – with their haunting and poetic feel. (It’s an oft-made comparison, but many consider her style to be similar to Dolly Parton. Let it be known that Parton’s register of radio hits included songs like “Here You Come Again” and “Sweet Summer Lovin” as opposed to deeply hidden cuts like “Me and Little Andy,” which proves that being “commercial” isn’t a sin.)
Then, I listened to this disc as a whole project. After picking my chin off the floor, I listened again – just to make sure what I was hearing was correct. I mean, come on. This can’t be that good? Can it?
After about the 27th listen to this disc – and hitting repeat a lot – the answer is simply YES! Monroe has put together an album that actually surpasses Like A Rose, a feat that I didn’t think possible for her or anyone else. With Vince Gill and Justin Niebank handling the production duties once again, Monroe weaves an almost mystical presence on this disc from start to finish. There’s the emotional torture of “I Buried Your Love Alive,” which she wrote with the timeless Matraca Berg, as well as the anguished feel of “Bombshell,” a song that takes the role of the party in a relationship that knows it’s time to move on – though she knows it’s going to cause the other party undeniable pain. Both performances are dazzling, causing one to think that Monroe might not even be mortal. It’s an idea that you might have as the disc rolls along.
There’s definitely a bit of a retro feel on this disc, with tracks like “From Time To Time” evoking a comparison to what was great about Country Music in the 1980s. It brings to mind some of the best of Rosanne Cash or maybe even Emmylou Harris. “The Devil Didn’t Want Me” has a definite Tammy Wynette/Lee Ann Womack feel to it – sounding like the bitterness of a woman who has been sitting at the bar for one too many smokes or drinks. It’s a performance for the ages – complete with some soul-stirring steel work from the great Paul Franklin. Throw in other winners such as “Dixie” and the gripping “Has Anybody Ever Told You,” and you’ve got an album that will make you wonder why Monroe isn’t a household name.
OK…all that said…pretty good album, huh? Well, you haven’t heard nothing yet. The title cut is worth the price of admission alone. For anyone who ever has been hurt in a love affair, this song will resonate. Monroe – with a helping harmony hand from Miranda Lambert – gives the strongest performance she has done to date. You can actually hear the emotional bleeding on this one. It’s like the female counterpart to Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” – a different song for sure, but the caliber of emotion Monroe puts into this performance isn’t just record of the year worthy…maybe record of a lifetime!
Well, I’m over quota on words on this one. But, that’s ok. Seriously, this album is so good that we all need to head to a Hallmark store and buy Monroe a “Thank You” note for making it. So, send it on to Warner Brothers Records, Nashville, TN. If you’re one of the crowd who gripes and complains about what Country Music isn’t anymore – then buy this damn record. That’s the way to ensure that music this good can be heard. And, trust me…It’s that damn good. Now, whether Monroe is one of us – or an angel herself – that can be debated!
Let me know what you think by sending me a tweet @ChuckDauphin
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Ashley Monroe – The Blade