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Ashley Monroe makes country music the old-fashioned way

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Ashley Monroe is promoting her third album “The Blade.” COURTESY JOSEPH LLANES

Ashley Monroe doesn’t completely understand why she’s drawn to old-school country music, or how she writes songs so effortlessly in its vintage vernacular, as on her upcoming third album “The Blade.”

She just might be an old soul: “I feel older, that’s for sure, and I have since I was a little girl,” says the 29-year-old, who plays the Mountain Winery this weekend. “When I was 2, I would cry to my parents and say ‘I have a lonely feeling.’ And I had no reason to be crying or upset – I had a wonderful childhood. There was just a certain feeling I would have, and I didn’t know how to explain it.”

Monroe vividly remembers her first birthday party, because she loathed the frilly dress her mother made her wear. She wanted to complain, but instead she remained silent because she didn’t want to offend mom – she was that sensitive, even then.

“So I’ve had these certain feelings since I was young,” she says. “I knew things and was very aware of hurting people’s feelings. So I definitely feel like I’ve probably been here many times before.”

The crystal-throated thrush channels the Carter Family past – via more recent feminist firebrands Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn – on her Vince Gill-produced “The Blade.”

Every song is painstakingly crafted, from the Elvis-meets-Jordanaires stomper “Winning Streak” (“I’ve got a good foundation on a bad reputation…If losing’s a game I’m on a winning streak”), to the pedal-steel loper “If the Devil Don’t Want Me” (“If the devil don’t want me/ Where the hell do I go?”), and a fiddle-waltzing “I’m Good at Leavin’” (“I’m good at packin’ up my car/ I’m good at honky tonks and bars/ I’ve had it stayin’ home and cleanin’/ I’m good at leavin’”).

Monroe’s retro sound didn’t catch on overnight. The Knoxville, Tenn., native moved to Nashville as a teenager, signed a publishing deal and tracked the debut disc “Satisfied” in 2006, which sat on the shelf for three years.

When she switched to Warner Bros. for 2013’s “Like a Rose,” Music Row was more accepting of edgier female artists like Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley – with whom Monroe formed an even rowdier side project called The Pistol Annies, which recorded two albums.

On June 10, Monroe attended the CMT Music Awards, where she had a Best Collaborative Video nomination for “Lonely Tonight,” her duet with Blake Shelton, who officiated at her 2013 wedding to Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks, with Lambert as maid of honor.

“It sounds cliché to say, but country music really is a family right now,” she says. “Because we definitely all have each other’s backs.”
 
IF YOU GO
Ashley Monroe
opening for Little Big Town
Where: Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga
When: 7 p.m. June 19
Tickets: $49.50 to $99.50
Contact: (408) 741-2822, www.axs.com

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