Ashley Monroe writes songs that cut to the quick. She has co-writing credits on every song on both 2013’s Like A Rose and her forthcoming record The Blade, save the title track. It’s tempting for people who are just discovering that country is a genre full of graceful, wise female voices to lump her in with Kacey Musgraves, and while they do share similarities, the two are very different. I can’t think of a song that illustrates that better than the one we’re premiering today entitled “I Buried Your Love Alive.” Gothic and clever, it’s indicative of Monroe’s fiercely sad streak. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Please don’t underestimate Monroe, probably known better to most as the reserved blonde from Pistol Annies. The existence of that country girl group alone fascinates me; Miranda Lambert’s feminism comes in action, not words. She spread her mantle of fame over a little country trio packed with gunpowder harmonies and gave the world the solo careers of Monroe and Anagaleena Presley right alongside two stellar collaborative records. Both of these women are probably more talented than Lambert — even if they never hit her level of pop star fame — and both had been knocking around Nashville for quite a few years, unable to get a toehold. After Pistol Annies, Monroe’s 2013 album Like A Rose scored quite a few accolades, and last year, Presley released American Middle Class to a clamor of critical praise.
Monroe’s new album will separate her even further from the pack; it pulses with the pain of a lover’s slow, quiet withdrawal on title track “The Blade” while “On To Something Good” rolls toward the future on the same understated pop-country groove that drove Sarah Evan and Lee Ann Womack straight to victory. She’s not content to dwell there though, and continually pushes through this muted emotionalism into dark territory. That’s where “I Buried Your Love Alive” comes in. It’s got slammed-saloon-door swagger and gritted teeth determination, as Monroe’s sweet voice goes staggering through the swampy guitars and violence of this metaphor. All that jagged agony is caught like a fly in the honey of her voice. Instead of gunning for outlier status, Monroe is more than happy to take her place in the legacy of badass country women who bring darkness into the spotlight. Listen.
The Blade is out 7/24 via Warner Bros. Pre-order it here.