Country Singer Ashley Monroe Goes Adult Contemporary With ‘The Blade’: Album Review

Ashley Monroe
Country
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No song has endeared Ashley Monroe more to critics -- especially those with a disdain for contemporary country -- than "Weed Instead of Roses," an irreverent honky-tonk about chemically enhancing a stale sex life. Songs like this have led many to champion her as an Authentic Country Traditionalist defying diluted radio fare with throwback sounds and real-talk lyrics.

Ashley Monroe Streams New Album 'The Blade' One Week Early: Listen

But her third solo set complicates such simplistic takes on her music. There are Southern gothic ­shadings, sure, and arrangements that hark back to pre-electric times. But the heart of the album is adult contemporary balladry, and songs like "If Love Was Fair" and the title track have a sentimentality that will stir hearts even if they turn off elitists. Monroe sings these songs, many of which she co-wrote, with exquisite, bruised sensitivity. More than a rebel, she's the most elegant country stylist of her generation.

This story originally appeared in the July 25 issue of Billboard.