Sparrow (Acoustic Sessions)
Warner Music Nashville
Brave, Honest and Raw Reworkings of Her Hit Songs.
Where to start?
To coincide with her Sold Out (mini) UK and European Tour Ashley Monroe is releasing this ‘digital only’ astonishing acoustic reworking of 5 songs from the ‘Hit Album’ Sparrow ; as if it was actually necessary……. but thankfully she has.
I really liked Sparrow; but Mrs Magpie loves it beyond words, and when I drove her car last week it was back in the CD player; and last December she was on the verge of not speaking to me when it didn’t make my Top 20 albums of 2018.
Although there really were more worthy albums for me last year; my one criticism was the ‘big production’ that is the hallmark of Nashville these days; and what I think of as a ‘wrong’ has now been ‘righted’ here.
None more so than the first song Orphan; which to some degree I’d actually forgot but in this version with Ashley’s amazing voice somehow sounding even more haunting as a piano, violin and cello bring out the story and words like a chilly January wind.
The tragic Hands on You with only Ashley, an acoustic guitar with some occasional violin flourishes follows, and sent a shiver down my spine the first time I played it; and when Mrs. Magpie was listening the other night she turned to me and nodded (which I think means more than a Grammy Award).
Perhaps it’s because I like the simpler things in life that these stripped back to the bare bone songs have taken on a new lease of life for me. The ‘hit single’ Wild Love now sounds like something you would turn to after midnight on Friday night when it’s all gone wrong and you are feeling very, very sorry for yourself…….. and you only have the energy to press ‘repeat play’ every three minutes.
The original Paying Attention has become a bit of a favourite of mine; and here it becomes a really stark and even borderline Gothic Tale as the acoustic guitar gets strummed so angrily you half expect a string to snap; and whoa, whoa and thrice whoa……. the cello lives up to it’s reputation as an instrument of darkness too.
The only surprise in Ashley Monroe being signed to Warner Brothers is that she is signed to Warner Brothers! From first discovering her via LIKE A ROSE in 2013 she has always struck me as a driven character who does things her way; or no way……. which isn’t kinda how the big labels like to work.
With that in mind this EP is something of a brave decision for both singer and label; as in this setting there isn’t anywhere to hide; not that Ashley would ever dream of doing such a thing when it comes to her singing; and all of that dangerous magic combines on what is the RMHQ Favourite Song here; the bitterly raw and honest Keys to the Kingdom; which was my Favourite on the original and here finds Ms Monroe sounding like the great singer; and indeed songwriter she has always been destined to be.
I doubt this will find it’s way into Mrs. Magpies car; but more than likely it will inhabit that special shelf on the rack for albums that will take me to a ‘special place’ as and when I need them.
Released February 15th 2019 (Digital Only)