Time to scrub that “I like all kinds of music, except country” line off your OkCupid profile.
If you’ve tried online dating, you’re fluent in human loneliness, which means you should get familiar with the sniffly catharsis of a good country song — the kind Ashley Monroe knows how to sing with Kleenex-depleting grace.
The Knoxville native’s “Like A Rose” isn’t just the first great album of 2013 — it’s the first in a cascade of discs from female country singers plotting to dominate annual best-of lists eight months down the road. Kacey Musgraves and Kelleigh Bannen are staging rookie breakouts. Lead Dixie Chick Natalie Maines is returning from exile. And the great Gretchen Wilson has promised — count ’em — three new albums by year’s end. So if you’re already hooked on ABC’s twangy record biz soap opera “Nashville,” why not lean your ear toward the real deal?
This should be a big year for Monroe alone. Pistol Annies, her fiery trio with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley, have promised a sophomore effort in the months ahead, where Monroe will likely continue to play the foil to her brassier bandmates. (She’s also sung alongside Will Hoge, Wanda Jackson and Jack White, whom she first met by asking for his autograph at the airport.) But on her own, Monroe reprises the old-school balladry of Keith Whitley and the emotive oomph of Pam Tillis. At 26, she sings like she’s already lived at least two of her lifetimes.