Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, Ashley Monroe has a long history of making old fashioned inspired country music. On her fourth album; Sparrow, these classic themes run alongside more contemporary influences from the likes of Elton John and Rick Hall. The result is a pleasant record, but one that doesn’t necessarily invoke strong feelings either way.
Both Oprhan and Hard On A Heart focus heavily on string arrangements to provide the soul that should really come from Monroe’s voice. Lightly tortured tales feel introspective, as though Monroe is older than her 31 years. The latter track providing a more predictable journey lyrically, against a more enjoyable melodic arrangement.
The focus shifts from strings to piano on Mother’s Daughter, perhaps a nod to the Elton John influence mentioned by Monroe when asked about inspiration for this record. This track has a definitive country spirit that thus far has been lacking on this album, allowing Monroe’s voice to carry the emotional strain rather than the instrumentation.
The intro to I’m Trying To has a touch of Jenny Lewis about it, and Monroe’s more defeated vocals really evoke a more sun kissed backdrop. Monroe is able to convey emotion without coming across as contrived, and this track is a fine example of just how she is able to explore well documented existing tropes.
Daddy I Told You tackles the important relationship between a parent and their child when they fly the nest. This track proves to be a late contender for best song on this record, blending country percussion with musical production piano stylings to stretch the story arc that bit higher.
Sparrow was absolutely a pleasant trip outside of my more alternative comfort zone. The stories were endearing and Ashley Monroe’s vocals remained sweet yet tolerable throughout, and I think the record benefitted from a more traditional approach. Ashley Monroe continues to prove herself as one for fans of a more mellow country experience.