Ashley Monroe released her debut album ‘Satisfied’ in 2009 and since then she’s been carving her own path outside the mainstream Nashville crowd. Her 2015 album ‘The Blade’ earned her a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Country Album’ and she picked up her second nomination for the Pistol Annies (her group with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) record ‘Interstate Gospel’ in 2020. Three years on from her excellent album ‘Sparrow’, Monroe is back with new solo album ‘Rosegold’ and it’s a bit of a departure.
If you’ve heard ‘Drive’, ‘’Til It Breaks’ or ‘Groove’ then you’ll have a fair idea of what to expect from ‘Rosegold’. The 10-song collection is easily Monroe’s most experimental and it’s like a hazy dream from start to finish, in the best possible way. Opening track ‘Siren’ features plenty of vocal layering and is a little reminiscent to Alanis Morissette around the ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie’ era. The song is the boldest one on ‘Rosegold’ and it does a great job of catching you off-guard but drawing you in anyway.
With the tone set, Monroe really digs into her experimental side across the next nine tracks. The gorgeous, almost choral at times ‘Silk’ mixes acoustic guitar riffs with vocals that sound as if they feel straight down from Heaven. It’s a song you want to put the headphones on for, turn it up real loud and just lose yourself in. ‘Gold’ introduces shimmering beats and finger snaps as pretty much the only backing to Monroe’s hushed vocal. The chorus opens up with vocal layering and it’s pure ear candy.
On ‘See’ Monroe plays with vocal effects as a steady beat and electric guitar riffs drive the melody, and the mid-section grabs you as Monroe’s ethereal voice steps into the spotlight. That’s followed by lead single ‘Drive’, one of the strongest tracks here, a 70s influenced throwback that invokes summer days with more than hint of sexual longing. Changing the tempo a bit is the piano ballad ‘Flying’ where Monroe explores her upper range, scaling to impressive heights a she sings about how love makes her feel like she’s flying.
During the final stretch of the record the aptly named ‘Groove’ makes a low-key funky groove utilising Monroe’s voice to create a gorgeous melody. I detect a hint of the hip-hop influences she spoke to me about in my recent interview on the track too, in subtle but effective way. ‘Til It Breaks’ is probably the closest song to anything Monroe has done before and it’s an anchor point on the album, that really showcases her songwriting.
The final two songs – ‘I Mean It’ and ‘The New Me’ – bring the record to a fitting close. The electro-lite ‘I Mean It’ is a gorgeous swirling of rhythms and sounds while ‘The New Me’ keeps things simple for an understated final song. It’s testament to Monroe’s voice that even without much going on production wise, you’re still drawn into her world and immersed in her vision.
‘Rosegold’ is without a doubt Monroe’s boldest body of work to date. Fans won’t mind that it’s a large sonic change but those who loved Monroe’s Country work, may find themselves a little lost. For me though, this album is a gorgeous creation that demands you spend time with it, turn it up loud and just float away with the melodies. Monroe told me she wrote this album from a place of joy and joy is all I felt while listening to it from start to finish.
Track list: 1. Siren 2. Silk 3. Gold 4. See 5. Drive 6. Flying 7. Groove 8. ‘Til It Breaks 9. I Mean It 10. The New Me Record label: Mountainrose Sparrow/Thirty Tigers Release date: 30th April 2021 Buy ‘Rosegold’ now