Sparrow comes on slowly, almost stately, unfolding with a deliberate crawl of piano and strings that instantly separates it from Ashley Monroe's first two albums. It's a sign that Monroe has changed producers, switching from her longtime supporter Vince Gill to Dave Cobb, the hottest producer in Nashville in the back half of the 2010s. Part of Cobb's strength is allowing artists to explore within the confines of a commercially appealing production, and that's precisely what Sparrow is: soul-baring songs given a sumptuous treatment. Sparrow sounds so warm and inviting that it's easy to miss how Monroe mines her personal life throughout the record, creating a suite of songs that explore family dynamics -- an appropriate fit, considering how Monroe recorded the album while pregnant with her first child. Despite these hints of the confession, Sparrow isn't strictly autobiographical. Monroe finds space for a flirtation with '70s soul ("Hard on a Heart"), majestic soft pop ("Wild Love"), and seductive slow-burners ("Hands on You"), moments that enrich the album by giving it a natural ebb and flow. More than anything, Sparrow is sharply constructed as an album, setting a mood with its first song and then finding variations on this lush, enveloping sound. It's a record designed for late nights, whether those nights are lonely or romantic.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine