Ashley Monroe – Rosegold (Thirty Tigers)
If it’s good enough for Taylor, Maren and Kacey…
…then it’s good enough for Ashley Monroe.
She’s not the first honey-tongued country gal to flirt with pop.
And she won’t be the last.
But listen carefully to Rosegold’s finer moments and there’s still enough of a country twang to reassure the doubters.
In fact, Monroe’s genre-fluid tour-de-force deserves huge respect.
It’s a bold move to bend the rules and pull up those well-established Nashville roots.
But she does so with confidence, class and due respect.
Rosegold is a glittering example of country’s ever-widening appeal and licence to evolve.
And Monroe might just have nailed the crossover record of the year.
All that glitters is Rosegold
Rosegold’s writing collabs read like a Who’s Who of Music City royalty.
Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift, Lady A), Mikey Reaves (Maren Morris, Needtobreathe) and Jake Mitchell (Ashley McBryde, Luke Bryan) all chip in.
Then there’s Jordan Reynolds (Maddie & Tae, Dan + Shay) and Ben West (Maddie & Tae, Lady A) adding weight to Monroe’s unique talent.
It all makes for a melting pot of disparate styles and stunning songcraft.
Haunting vocal harmonies jostle for position with sweeping synths.
And yet a song like Silk subtly recalls Monroe’s early years with its understated country vibe.
At the heart of every song here is a voice that’s persuasive and passionate in equal measure.
And for all of its commercial ambition, Rosegold is a true representation of a sensational singer.
Siren calls for change
Opener Siren sets out Monroe’s stall from the start — its dreamy pop announcing a significant change in direction.
Gold develops the theme and the Madonna influence is writ large over one of the most divisive songs here.
See’s stripped back arrangement and challenging percussion allows Monroe to blossom.
But by now fans of her country back catalogue might be pressing pause.
Drive is a jaunty mid-set joy that’s just enough Nashville to bring the doubters back on board.
Piano ballad Flying is simply exquisite as the sometime Pistol Annie shoots for the stars.
Ironically, given this record’s underlying theme of reinvention, set closer The New Me might well be the most country song here.
A spoken word segment and perfectly positioned strings make for a standout moment in Monroe’s rebirth.
And there’s a reassuring Cowboy Junkies feel to a rich composition that will have fans new and old coming back for more.
So where next for Monroe?
Apparently, a new Pistol Annies project is in the works.
And that should quench the thirst of long-time fans yearning for a return to the singer songwriter’s classic country roots.
But Rosegold could well catapult Monroe into the pop mainstream.
It’s that good.
Where Swift, Morris and Musgraves have led, Monroe is ideally placed to follow.
And few would bet against songs this powerful failing to make their mark.
As a solo artist, Monroe might have moved on for good. Or for bad.
Some might call it selling out but others will surely recognise a timely reinvention and an inevitable transition.
As a standalone record Rosegold is pure gold.
Pop, country? Who cares? The music is what matters.
Main image by Alexa King