Ashley Monroe is the sort of modern day Dolly Parton, and not just because they both have platinum blonde hair. Of course, she hasn't quite sold out into pop music like Parton did with some of her biggest hits, but they do have some similarities woven throughout their music. Monroe is also not currently the star Parton was, but she has the potential to be as soon as country radio starts accepting country artists again. It would be easy to see "I Buried Tour Love Alive" as a big hit.
The lead single and first song, "On to Something Good," sets a happy tone for the record, but all in all this is a sad breakup record. The infectious beat if the first song begs to differ, with Monroe declaring that "hard times show up but they don't hang around." But right after that first song, the hard times show up, and they stay prevalent throughout most of the record. Blues influence shows up in "I Buried Your Love Alive" and that feeling and emotion of a bad relationship shows up for the first time, but definitely not the last.
Ballads are big on this record, and beautiful. The first one appears in the form of "Bombshell." Perhaps the most emotional and moving part of the song is when Monroe croons "I can't love you anymore" during the bridge.The simplest part of the track, but sometimes simple can express raw emotions better than anything else. "Has Anybody Ever Told You" is a big emotional ballad, showing off Monroe's sweet twangy vocals more than any song on the record.
Most of the upbeat songs on this record come in disguise. One of the most memorable of those category is "Winning Streak" the jaunty track that leads with "if losing's a game, I'm on a winning streak." It's a surprisingly negative song with a positive covering that results in an interesting and toe-tapping listen.
The title track of this album is one of the best, if not the best country songs released this year. The lyrics look at love in a way that honestly hasn't been covered before. It's cliche by now to say that this album has some d the sharpest lyrics of this year in country music, but it's a true statement. It is the only song on the record not co-written by Monroe but that doesn't make a difference in how she sings it. Emotion pours out of this track, more than any other song on the record. "The Blade" was written by Jamie Floyd (Ronnie Dunn), Marc Beeson (Billy Currington, Martina McBride) and Allen Shamblin (Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert). Monroe herself has said that "it will go down in history as being one of the best-written songs. I'm just shocked at how good it is every time I sing it."
Throwbacks and the last track come hand in hand. "I'm Good At Leavin" is a sort of acknowledgement that good love is never going to come her way and she's always going to have heartbreak because she just needs to keep moving. Loretta Lynn is a big influencer on this song, with the girl power message that comes "I'm bad at staying home and cleaning / I'm good at leaving." Co-written by Miranda Lambert and Jessi Alexander, this song also is reminiscent of "All that's Left" on Lambert's most recent record Platinum. Mixing Lambert and Lynn equals big and epic results.
With this record Monroe there are so many incredible tracks on this album it's hard to pick the very best. There are also no misses. Even the poppier tracks continue to impress. The sad thing is that an album like this does incredibly critically, but not so well commercially. It did hit No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart with 12,000 sales the first week, but this is not what most country fans are looking for right now. However, if this kind of music was on the radio all the time, country music would not have the bad reputation that it has because of bro-country and pop-country. Despite the trouble Monroe might have reaching out to a larger audience, she is definitely 'on to something good' with this album.
Best tracks: I Buried Your Love Alive, The Blade, Bombshell, Winning Streak, I'm Good at Leavin'
Throwaway tracks: none
Overall rating: 4 and 3/4 crowns