Ashley Monroe, member of the critically acclaimed trio Pistol Annies, will release her first Warner Nashville solo album, Like A Rose, to digital outlets on Dec. 18, 2012. The physical CD drops at retail Jan. 22, 2013.
Like a Rose has been a long time coming. Monroe has been creating music for more than half of her life—attracting along the way kudos from such music-world giants as Dolly Parton, Guy Clark, Vince Gill and Jack White.
Monroe spent her childhood in Knoxville, Tenn., where she immersed herself in all varieties of music ranging from country to rock, pop, rap and even opera. When she was 11, Monroe won a talent contest singing “I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” and two years later her father gave Monroe her first guitar.
In 2008, Monroe cut a highly praised EP with singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs and a few years later, at the invitation of Jack White, she sang background vocals on an album he was producing by the iconic country-rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson. And just to prove how versatile she is, Monroe also contributed vocals to the track “Bruises” on the 2012 Train album California 37.
But one of the most rewarding artistic adventures for Ashley to date has been the Pistol Annies, a trio she co-formed in 2011with her friend Miranda Lambert and newcomer Angaleena Presley. Pistol Annies have provided Monroe with yet another outlet for her music. Their album, Hell on Heels, garnered rave reviews. The All Music Guide called the trio “a remarkably democratic supergroup” while veteran music critic Robert Christgau gave the album an A grade, citing its “expertly executed tunes.”
Despite her list of previous accomplishments, everything she’s done so far feels like it’s been pointing the way toward Like a Rose. With songs that run the gamut from feel-good to controversial to contemplative, the album, produced by country music titan Vince Gill, offers the full range of Monroe’s songwriting and performing skills. To maintain the honesty of her songs, Gill and Monroe chose to record the album the way most of the greatest albums ever were made: sans gimmickry. “We just got the band in a circle and started playing the songs,” Ashley says, “and once we felt like we had a feel for it, I’d do my vocal live—I never went back in to do a second vocal. Everyone put everything we had into the songs. There was a buzz in the room. We all had fun—it felt like a big old family, the way records used to be made.”
One song that is bound to raise some eyebrows refers to the same favored flower of the title tune, but in a much different sense: “Weed Instead of Roses” tells of a woman’s desire to get a gift she actually desires from her beau, not just something that smells good.
Another is the self-explanatory “You Ain't Dolly (And You Ain't Porter),” a duet featuring CMA Entertainer of the Year, Blake Shelton.
Like a Rose avoids the trappings of too much contemporary music by sticking to the basics: memorable songs, incredible musicians, a superb voice, all of it captured honestly and without frills. As the saying goes, sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses.