Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Josh Niles at Big Light, Nashville, Tennessee
It wasn't the rosiest of upbringings for Ashley Monroe and some of those aspects of her life were the ones that the legendary Guy Clark took an interest in when the two first met. Clark was drinking coffee, smoking his cigarettes and listening to her spill herself out, eager to please, keeping his thoughts mostly to himself as he grunted or nodded. She explained about her daddy dying when she was 13, her mama starting to drink and the entire family taking something of a nosedive. She tells all this to a man who knows his fair share of heartbreak and ache and finishes her story by rationalizing that somehow, she still came out like a rose. Clark then commented, "Well then, we should write that."
This meeting and collaboration, along with this general idea that she came out of these sorry situations scarred, but mostly fine, still in one functioning piece, formed the backbone of Monroe's beautiful record, "Like A Rose." It functions as an autobiography of a woman who has known all number of bumpy roads, but has found ways to cushion those blows, to come out on the other side of horrible decisions, nauseous nights and mornings retaining a self-worth that just got more and more valuable as the years went on.
It's a collection of songs, produced by Vince Gill, that shows a pained person who knows that she'll never escape any of those horrible details of her life, but that they mean less every day. Those details are still what made her, so perhaps they weren't all bad. There's no getting past the aspects of growing up in the world that she grew up in/ran away from, but there is a great effect when they can be analyzed and put into perspective in the exquisite ways that she does on this album, which feels like it could have come out of the old country era when Loretta was writing about the pill and Dolly was writing those first songs about cheating men and all the rest. It's a record that's completely naked and honest. It deals with doubts as the topple her. It deals with recognizing that nothing good's going to come easy and that's just the way it is