Ashton Shepherd, Sounds So Good

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August 11, 2008

Ashton Shepherd
Sounds So Good

Ashton Shepherd has entered the country music scene with a voice that holds nothing back. It’s loud and full while possessing an uninhibited twang that is fairly uncommon in today’s mainstream market. When people hear Shepherd sing, they may be surprised to learn that such a mature sounding voice is coming from a mere 21-year- old. Moreover, when they hear her songs, it believably sounds as though she has lived a life well beyond her actual years.

The opening lines to her debut album, Sounds So Good, immediately inform us that we’re not in for the typical commercial country music fare. Instead, we’re about to hear an album with fresh and clever grit. With unabashed twang, she sings: “I’ve got a cold beer in my right hand/In my left I got my weddin’ band/I been wearin’ it ’round now for way too long/And I’m more than ready to see it gone/And I’m the only one who can set myself free/So I’m takin’ off this pain you put on me.”

In songs like “I Ain’t Dead Yet” and “Not Right Now”, she addresses the guilt that women commonly feel as a result of the societal expectations that are placed upon them. “I Ain’t Dead Yet” insists that while she embraces being a mother and wife, there is more to her than those roles: “I like a cold beer and a long dirt road/And listenin’ to some Keith Whitley on the radio/Don’t mean I ain’t a good mama/Don’t mean I ain’t a good wife/I’m just like everybody else who needs a break from time to time/And I know my obligations/And believe me, they are met/I may be getting’ older, but I ain’t dead yet.” Likewise, “Not Right Now” acknowledges that she likes to drink and party, despite what people expect of her as a woman: “I ain’t supposed to want to do a lot of drinkin’/Least that’s what a lot of folks keep thinkin’/I ain’t supposed to stay out ‘til all hours in the mornin’/I’m supposed to be a young lady.”

“The Pickin Shed”, “The Bigger the Heart” and “Sounds So Good” are more lighthearted songs that, much like so many of the other songs on the album, embrace a traditional sound that compliments Shepherd’s voice very well.

While the album is replete with very good material, “How Big Are Angel Wings” and “Regular Joe” are a couple of songs that stand out as unoriginal and fall into the trap of the generic format that often befalls Nashville these days. Even those songs, however, captures a sincerity that Shepherd so naturally conveys with her honest delivery.

Sounds So Good is a solid debut effort from an artist who will hopefully continue to make an impression on country radio and its listeners. Her strong voice, intriguing songwriting and traditional leaning should be afresh and welcome addition to country music.

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  1. Dan M.No Gravatar says:

    Completely agree with the review, right down to the two weaker songs you pointed out. I’m also glad you noted that “I Ain’t Dead Yet” and “Not Right Now” cover similar thematic territory; I sometimes wish they had taken the latter off the album (though it’s enjoyable on its own merits) simply because it sounds like an up-tempo re-write of the former (which is the better song, IMO). And I’m not sure how I feel about “Whiskey Won The Battle” being the closing track, since the rock-ish sound on it is so unrepresentative of the rest of the album.

    But those are such small quibbles when you compare them to the ones I have for other mainstream releases. I find it very hard to conceal my admiration for this release, and I really hope it gets the attention it deserves.

  2. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Dan,

    I almost mentioned the same thing regarding the closing track. It really was a departure from the rest of the album and somewhat different than what I had expected from its title.

    I’m not sure, but this may be my first 4-star album…not that I’ve written very many of them yet.

  3. BlakeNo Gravatar says:

    3.5 stars in my book. My sentiments echo those of Dan and Leeann. Very nice review. A couple of artistic shortcomings, but overall, a nice introduction to a potentially wonderful artist. I think age and experience will increase the depth of her music.

  4. MarcNo Gravatar says:

    While preface my comments by saying I really do like the album…

    1) The oversinging does drive me nuts, particularly at the start of the title track. It feels like what an 8 year old girl does when she’s singing something.. to make it be known she’s singing not just saying the words. Not everything needs to be drawn out.

    2) I disagree with your statement of “The opening lines to her debut album, Sounds So Good, immediately inform us that we’re not in for the typical commercial country music fare. Instead, we’re about to hear an album with fresh and clever grit. With unabashed twang, she sings: “I’ve got a cold beer in my right hand/In my left I got my weddin’ band/”

    …isn’t that EXACTLY the stereotype of country music? Alcohol and Divorce… add a dog and a truck and you’ve hit the magic foursome ;)

    3.5 for me as well, still well worth a download and a listen.

  5. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    “…isn’t that EXACTLY the stereotype of country music? Alcohol and Divorce… add a dog and a truck and you’ve hit the magic foursome ;)”
    Marc, I suppose it is, but I’m not hearing enough of it on the radio these days. And I’m not talkin’ about party drinking songs like B&D and Montgomery Gentry. I want the stuff that’s dripping with twang and grit!

  6. MarcNo Gravatar says:

    haha.. I hear ya! :)

  7. bobby says:

    I really liked this cd, but I did think there were a few songs that were kind of redundant, however, looking at them seperately i like most of them. i thought lost in you and old memory were a bit too drawn out, but other than that, i can’t get enough of her singing style.

  8. LindaNo Gravatar says:

    The upbeat songs are good. “Sounds So Good” and “Takin’ Off This Pain” sound like radio friendly songs ’cause they have catchy melodies but Ashton’s twang probably prevents them from being on radio. I can’t think of an female on radio who sings with as heavy a southern drawl as Ashton does, at least not with the newcomers these days. (Reba’s the only one I can think of, but she’s established.)

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