Ashley Monroe’s appearance at Nashville hotspot 3rd and Lindsley on Tuesday night served up classic, traditional-leaning country music with 21st century sass and gave concertgoers a chance to hear much of what is destined to be one of the year’s top albums. It also introduced the audience to some of the singer-songwriter’s talented friends, even though most of them were nowhere in sight.
Looking radiant in a summery white outfit and accompanied by her impeccable (and also smartly dressed) band, the Tennessee native displayed her unending Southern charm throughout an hour-long set that included most of the songs from the upcoming LP, The Blade. She also threw in a Pistol Annies’ tune (“Unhappily Married”), the Number One hit she penned with fellow Annie, Miranda Lambert (“Heart Like Mine”), a Gram Parsons cover (“Hickory Wind”) and a couple of tracks from her 2013 Like a Rose album, including the cheeky “Weed Instead of Roses” and the title track, a co-write with legend Guy Clark, whom she noted was rolling a cigarette in one hand and a joint in the other when she arrived for their writing session.
Although there’s no question it was Monroe’s night, it might as well have also been billed as “co-starring some of Nashville’s finest songwriters,” as throughout the night she called out many of her collaborators. While introducing the Pistol Annies track to thunderous applause, she hastened to mention that her trio partners, Lambert and Angaleena Presley, were not going to be joining her onstage. One who was in attendance, however, was Jessi Alexander, whose contributions on The Blade include “If the Devil Don’t Want Me” and “Winning Streak,” which the pair wrote with Chris Stapleton, and “If Love Was Fair,” written by Monroe and Alexander with Steve Moakler.
The show was kicked off with “I Buried Your Love Alive,” a co-write with Matraca Berg that featured a thumping bass beat from bluegrass vet Mike Bub. The cheery single, “On to Something Good,” from Monroe and co-writers Luke Laird and Barry Dean was, as the singer noted, one of the more upbeat offerings in a show that mostly specialized in emotionally intense, warts-and-all portraits of real life.
To that end, the highlight of the night was unquestionably the title track – the one tune on The Blade which Monroe didn’t write at all. That’s certainly not to suggest that her own efforts weren’t enthusiastically received, but the song, written by Allen Shamblin, Jamie Floyd and Marc Beeson (the latter two of whom were among the crowd), is an especially arresting one; the kind of country music that raises every hair on the back of your neck. She may not have written it, but Monroe sells the hell out of it, every breathtaking note of the way.
The Blade is due July 24th from Warner Music Nashville and after an opening slot on the Rascal Flatts Riot Tour, Monroe joins Lambert’s Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars trek this fall.