Monroe's Like a Rose is an exquisite album that draws on her challenges in life and love. Yet despite her hardships, she never comes off as a complainer. Instead, she endears herself to listeners on quiet songs like the title track and the classic country-inspired "She's Driving Me Out of Your Mind." You can tell this Tennessee native is coming at country from a fresh angle on clever songs like "Weed Instead of Roses" and "Two Weeks Late." For fans of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, this one's a natural fit.
Musgraves' Same Trailer Different Park debuted at No. 1 on the country album chart, thanks to her Top 10 debut single, "Merry Go 'Round." This Texas native cites John Prine and Lee Ann Womack as two of her primary influences, although she also draws on pop music, too. "Silver Lining" and "My House" will ring true to those who keep a positive attitude despite the tough times. "Follow Your Arrow" makes perhaps the strongest statement. In it, she endorses a love-who-you-want philosophy and a weed-along-with-roses mentality.
However, Monroe and Musgraves aren't the only two young women with smart albums arriving this month. Crystal Bowersox's All That for This blends a mix of roots-rock, folk and country on winning tracks like the title track and "Amen for My Friends." In addition, Caitlin Rose's The Stand-In casts the net wide, with appealing tunes like "I Was Cruel" and "Pink Champagne" that blend her country, pop and singer-songwriter influences from the 1970s.
Meanwhile, bluegrass fans should pick out the following tracks: Alan Bibey and Wayne Benson's "Wilkes County Breakdown," the Gibson Brothers' "They Called It Music," Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver's "Dixie Road," Dale Pyatt's "Run Secretariat Run" and Marty Raybon & Full Circle's "That Janie Baker." And if you're a George Strait fan, you will want to find Kyle Park's "Fit for a King," which pieces together the titles of dozens of Strait's hit songs into a whole new track. It's sort of like listening to a Greatest Hits album in under four minutes.
If you enjoy singer-songwriters, start with Josh Ritter's "New Lover" and Josh Rouse's "Julie (Come Out of the Rain)." Both of these gentlemen write wisely and economically, yet their melodies will quickly get your attention. Other new tunes to check out include Lizanne Knott's "Be Careful With My Heart," Tift Merritt and Simone Dinnerstein's "Night" (written for them by Patty Griffin), Gurf Morlix's "Present Tense" and Shannon Whitworth's "High Tide."
There are plenty of bands to go around, too. Notable new tracks include Susie Glaze & the Hilonesome Band's "White Swan," Hem's "Gently Down the Stream," the Howling Brothers' "Big Time," Poco's "Long Shot," Son Volt's "Hearts and Minds," Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck's "Eden" and Water Liars' "How Will I Call You."