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Like a Rose by Ashley Monroe

Ashley Monroe is among a new crop of country artists who are passing on glossy production in favor of earthier arrangements. The difference is that the Pistol Annies member has raised that bar with her new solo effort, Like a Rose.

The album combines Ashley’s almost ethereal voice with a healthy dose of sawing fiddle, pedal steel and doghouse bass to give the entire project an über-traditional country slant. In fact, her duet with Blake Shelton, “You Ain’t Dolly (You Ain’t Porter),” is such a fun throwback to traditional country, you can almost picture hay bales and wagon wheels in the recording studio.

Not everything is as in-your-face as “You Ain’t Dolly,” however. Or as tongue-in-cheek as the hilarious “Weed Instead of Roses.” In fact, the title track opens the album with a delicate, folksy story, making it a perfect showcase for Ashley’s angelic voice.

But don’t get the impression she’s afraid of darker themes either. “Used,” with its minor-key structure, evokes black-and-white imagery and all-American heartbreak with its descriptive lyric and Ashley’s emotive singing.

If you’ve ever bemoaned the absence of traditional country sounds in an era of pop, rock and even hip-hop production, be still—Ashley Monroe is throwing you a country music lifeline. Whether country radio will embrace it is anybody’s guess. But if they don’t, shame on them. 

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