Ashley Monroe's Like A Rose, her long-awaited traditionalist Vince Gill and Justin Niebank-produced record, is a fine collection of absolutely lovely country sounds by one of the best female voices in music today. All praise you read here and elsewhere is well-earned. In the despairingly polluted sea of distasteful manufactured music, her record easily stands out with its' honest classic songs that have a modern take, all leading with the autobiographical title track, written with one of country music's greatest songwriters, Guy Clark. 

I'm completely infatuated with the classic ballads "She's Driving Me Out Of Your Mind" and "Morning After," which I think are my two favorites on the album. Something about her pristine Appalachian-timbre is perfect for these types of songs. She has the kind of voice that stirs you to the core. 

She cut "Used" again which I am pleased about, but I actually prefer the Satisfiedversion. It's a beautiful melody and lyric, but something about the production makes me think of Phil Collins and I sit wondering when the pan flute solo comes in. Not good.. 

The Blake Shelton duet "You Ain't Dolly" - which may have helped his case amid Old Fart-gate weeks ago - is excellent. You can hear Vince Gill all over this co-write; I could listen to that classic sound all day... until The Voice/Shades of Grey reference, which kind of brought me crashing back to reality. Did we really need that? It left a bad taste in my mouth. All Blake's contribution brings to mind, however, is how much I miss him singing country music. Actual country music. He's like your friend that went away to summer camp and came back a different person. He's changed, and it's sad he can only detour back to his roots once in a while. Truely sad, for his voice is brilliant with hers. It will be interesting to see if this ever ends up on the radio.

Just like when I reached the end of Hell On Heels, when Like A Rose's nine tracks were through I only wished there were more. Several songs feel like a continuation of the Pistol Annies' debut album (like the classic throwback "Two Weeks Late," the hilarious campy "Weed Instead of Roses" and the upbeat chick outlaw story-song "Monroe Suede"), which only induces my excitement for the next Annie's record, due sometime this year! In the same thought, if you're new to Ashley's music and haven't sought out her 2009 debut release Satisfied, find it immediately. It was critically praised but brushed aside by the mainstream due to its' traditionalist streak. Having been recorded in 2006 at the age of 19, it was as evident then as it is now that Ashley is a remarkable talent. 

No legends are rolling over in their graves about this one. I'm proud to have her representing our generation of country music. I often think about who will carry the torch, and it's clear to see that Ashley Monroe will be one of those unaffected, pure voices (in her vocals AND writing) that will be positively contributing to the genre for decades to come. 

Ashley Monroe's Like A Rose is one of many excellent roots albums released this year. Visit the Independent Sky Amazon music storefront to check out my picks for 2013's top releases:


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