I think it’s fair to say Ashley Monroe was one of Nashville’s best kept secrets, well that was until of course she teamed up with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley to form the Pistol Annies back in 2011. Rising to fame with the Annie’s gave Ashley a stepping stone to releasing 2013’s sweet gem ‘Like A Rose’. But that wasn’t the first time she’d released an album, her debut, ‘Satisfied’ was released way back in 2006 but sadly it slipped under the radar. It is worth mentioning though that a newer version of ‘Used’ made an appearance on ‘Like A Rose’.
With her sweet sounding vocals and traditional country sounding melodies I find it quite hard to believe it took so long for the industry to sit up and take notice. At least they’re listening now…
‘The Blade’ is a stunning collection of tracks, it was produced by Vince Gill and Justin Niebankand unlike the last record it brings out a more vulnerable side to Ashley, with evident themes of heartbreak and loss throughout.
It’s not all bad though, lead single ‘On To Something Good’ had moderate success on the country chart Stateside. Co-written with Barry Dean and Luke Laird it includes lyrics such as “Lost and found I’m better dancing when I don’t look down, hard times show up but they don’t hang around” it’s a feel good track that reflects a happier state of mind. At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a happy record.
“Deep inside me, there’s a shallow grave that haunts me every day.” she sings on ‘I Buried Your Love Alive’ it’s a typical break up song that is influenced by the blues, on which Miranda Lambert shares by singing backing vocals. It’s dark and gritty and I envision a video similar to that of Two Black Cadillacs (Carrie Underwood) if this was to become a single. ‘Bombshell’ is about needing to say something that is quite difficult to say and realising that there’ll never to a right time to say it. A duet with Vince Gill appears in the form of ‘The Weight Of The Load’ well, it’s more he features on backing vocals. Album title track “The Blade” is the only song Monroe didn’t have a hand in writing. Nevertheless it’s one of the stand outs from the entire record. “I thought we were both in all the way but you caught it by the handle and I caught it by the blade” you can almost hear the pain of the knife going straight into her heart as she sings, it’s quite a tearjerker to say the least. ‘Winning Streak’ is one of the records more, joyous moments. The intro took me completely by surprise, it’s almost jazzy sounding, it gives me slight Lindi Ortega vibes and I love her records, however I really don’t know how to feel about this one song. The sweet sounds of ‘From Time To Time’ (co written by Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis), ‘If Love Was Fair’, and ‘Has Anybody Ever Told You’ bring back the softer tones. The latter is a masterpiece both lyrically, “Baby you don’t have to try your light just shines on its own” and musically with a beautiful combination of a piano and strings. It’s not just a highlight of ‘The Blade’ but a highlight of Monroe’s career. End of. “Dixie” is another co-write with Sarah and Justin. It’s a track about leaving Tennessee and features some very witty lyrics “It was the Bible belt that whipped me when I broke the Fifth Command” – amazing. The up-tempo tracks continue with the undeniably country song “If The Devil Don’t Want Me”. The pretty sounding “Mayflowers” was written in 2008 with Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs) and features vocals from the lovely Alison Krauss.
The records final track is ‘I’m Good At Leavin’ which was a co-write with Miranda, it’s a lovely light hearted song that gives a perfect ending to the album.
Overall ‘The Blade’ is an enjoyable album. Stand out tracks include ‘I Buried Your Love Alive’, ‘The Blade’ and ‘Has Anybody Ever Told You’.
It would be unfair to compare this offering to ‘Like A Rose’ as they are quite simply two very different records. I can’t wait to see what Ashley brings us next time around.