“You caught it by the handle… I caught it by the blade.” As far a country missives go, that seems like just what you’d expect from your average song. But in the hands of Ashley Monroe, it’s something else. It’s a moment of self-aware vulnerability in a sea of post-breakup songs, and an indication towards her power in making The Blade something eminently empathetic.
There’s introspection, there’s retrospection, and there’s a rounded view presented of a situation that has fortuitously led to some of the best songs of Monroe’s career. I Buried Your Love Alive is a spiky shrug in the vein of Nashville‘s Juliette Barnes (sacrilege to compare the two, we know, though an appropriate reference given the latter recently sang something titled Don’t Put Dirt On My Grave) but Winning Streak‘s blues bar hoedown notwithstanding, the rest of the time it’s all desperately sad.
So you have Bombshell which is a wonderful brushstroke of country excellence, delicate in touch but nursing a deep wound alongside melodies to kill for. From Time To Time is a rose-tinted tearjerker, melancholic and hopeful all at once. And an irresistible ballad like Has Anybody Ever Told You honours the likes of Parton and Williams so much that it more than forgives run-of-the-mill outings like If Love Was Fair.
The triumph of it all, however, is that Monroe doesn’t ever come across as a victim. At times she’s in circumstances of her own design but she owns that fact; elsewhere she’s very much bucking self-pity for very pointed barbs at an ex. For a genre that’s notoriously hard on its women, that’s some feat to pull off; while on the title track itself it’s a source of pain for Monroe, The Blade could be more appropriate a reference for the sharpness of her fuck-yous on a robust record.
The Blade by Ashley Monroe can be ordered here.