If you have read Female Fridays, you already know how I felt about Ashley Monroe up to this point. Her previous album, 2013’s Like a Rose, was one of my favorite albums of the past five years, and I have been wanting to hear more music from her ever since. Like a Rose would have gotten a ten. So, as you can see, The Blade, while still good, did not quite live up to my expectations of Ashley Monroe. This was a very hard review for me to do, because there were individual songs that were tens to me, but unlike the last album, they stood out among other songs that were not as great. I will point out the stand-out tens as I go.
The album opens with the lead single, “On to Something Good,” which is actually my least favorite song on The Blade. It was not a great choice for a single and does not reflect the album as a whole. It is a pop country song, which is a new sound for Ashley after the entirely traditional Like a Rose, but this is to be expected after “Lonely Tonight”‘s success. The song itself is basically about moving on from hard times and finding the good things in life. I will say it took me severl listens to get this out of the song, as the lyrics are extremely vague and not Ashley Monroe quality. Next is “I Buried Your Love Alive,” another pop country song, this time dealing with heartbreak and “a memory I can’t kill.” This suits Ashley’s voice more, although the instrumentation draws you a little away from her voice, which should never happen. Ashley Monroe’s voice should always be the focal point in her songs. Next is “Bombshell,” and here the pop country sound that worked for Ashley in “Lonely Tonight” finally works again. This is a great song about finding the right time to “drop a bombshell” and leave someone. For me, this song itself is a ten.
Next is “Weight of the Load,” a Monroe co-write with Vince Gill, who as I mentioned in Female Fridays also had a hand in producing the album. This song is surprisingly mediocre for an Ashley Monroe and Vince Gill co-write–it’s not a bad song, I just expected more. It’s another pop country song about helping a partner shoulder life’s burdens. I could easily picture Kacey Musgraves singing it, and she would have probably arranged it more traditionally, so it would have been better. “The Blade” is another ten for me–a heartbreak song featuring a great melody, prominent piano play, and lyrics that paint a perfect picture. Ashley sings, of the broken relationship, “You caught it by the handle, and I caught it by the blade.” Incidentally, that’s Miranda Lambert on backing vocals.
“Winning Streak” is a fun, upbeat song where I focused more on the piano than the lyrics. Ashley sings, “If losing’s a game, I’m on a winning streak.” This would get played on radio if radio was country…right. “From Time to Time” tooke me a couple listens, but it’s one of my favorites now. I hesitate to give it a ten because it did take me a couple times, but this autobiographical song is one that can really connect if you listen. Ashley mentions the “tenth of September” in the opening line as the character’s birthday, and so I knew she was addressing herself. She is telling her younger self that someday everything will be fine, but that it is all right to remember. If I hadn’t caught the “tenth of September” line, I admit I would probably be confused about this song and/or think it was a generic song, but knowing it is autobiographical helps it a lot.
“If Love Was Fair” is a pop country song that I feel doesn’t work for Ashley. The song focuses too much on rhythm and not enough on her voice or the lyrics. It could have been a better song, but it is actually pretty forgettable. Following this is “Has Anybody Ever Told You,” a love song that goes back to traditional country and does feature Ashley’s beautiful voice, which actually hurts “If Love Was Fair” even more. Next is “Dixie,” which immediately makes you think it will be another ode to the South. The opening line begins with, “If I ever get out of Dixie” and we are hit with lines like “I’m so tired of payin’, prayin’ for my sins, Lord, get me out of Dixieland, in Jesus’s name, amen.” This song should get a twelve. The lyrics are great, the instrumentation is great, and the fact that a country singer had the audacity to cut this gives it extra credit–not to mention it has the deceivingly innocent title “Dixie.”
Next is “If the Devil Don’t Want Me,” another ten. It’s a traditional country song that asks where she’ll go if the devil doesn’t want her and she can’t see the light. “May Flowers” is a pretty good traditional country love song, and maybe I’m the only one, but this song gets on my nerves because I hear Merle Haggard’s “If We Make it Through December” in the music and melody. The album ends with the excellent “I’m Good at Leavin’,” a co-write with Miranda Lambert about being the woman who is good at walking away rather than staying at home and being a wife.
There were a lot of great tracks on this album, but it fell short of a ten because there were mediocre tracks mixed in. So, not as awesome as Like a Rose, but definitely worth checking out.