August 11, 2008
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.