Single Review: Ashton Shepherd, “Look it Up”

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December 11, 2010

Karmic retribution for every boring vocabulary lesson I ever bored my students with during my years as an English teacher.

I’d call this Jo Dee Messina’s B-material, but I’m pretty sure she’d have passed on this one, even though she’d sing it a lot better. I get that Ashton Shepherd is bringing country back to country, but a dull vocal isn’t improved by exaggerated twang. It just sounds forced.

The lyrical content suggests that Shepherd is aspiring to be a modern day Loretta Lynn. But the problem that surfaces with “Look it Up” is the same one that plagued most of Gretchen Wilson’s similar attempts and just about all of the recent Lynn tribute album.  Shepherd apes Lynn’s attitude without contemporizing it, and ends up with a song that is outdated before it’s even been officially released.

Grade: C

Listen: Look it Up

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44 Comments so far

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  1. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, this was a bit of a surprise. I actually thought this song sounded a bit less twangy than Ashton’s previous material. I like this song fairly well, though I admit some of your criticisms went a little over my head.

  2. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I think she sings it fine – the problem for me is just the material. I agree it tries to cop the Loretta Lynn attitude without managing the Loretta Lynn substance. For me it’s the difference between a clever lyrical conceit and merely a “cute” one.

  3. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    It stops with the melody for me. It’s not enough to grab me in order to look past the subpar lyrics. Her first album had enough good hooks and crisp production to forgive some weaker lyrical content. I’m still rooting for her though, because I like her sound.

  4. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …i like it particularly because of that loretta twist. i do like my country when it comes with large twang. i do see where you guys are coming from, but i guess, i fail miserably in being objective, when i hear ashton shepherd.

  5. Travis in VIrginiaNo Gravatar says:

    I liked it too!!! We need more Ashtons and Sunny Sweeny’s in the female country mix now!!!!!!!!

  6. Susan K.No Gravatar says:

    Ouch!!! Not her best, to be sure…but not as bad as all that! I LOVE Ashton and think she’s one of the brightest spots on the country horizon.

  7. Susan K.No Gravatar says:

    BTW – were you just sharpening your claws on Sugarland?! :P Even though I DO agree with that review…

  8. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    Havent heard the song yet, I’ll listn when i have a little more time, but I’m glad shes back.

  9. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I’d give this a B – the song isn’t that good although she sings it better than Jo Dee would

  10. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    I heard Ashton the first time a couple of years ago…and I have to be honest, I thought I was listening to a guy, instead of a gal. Maybe that is what turns me off about exaggerated twang in female country artists: they’re trying to sound every bit as tough-talkin’ or twangin’ as the guys, but it feels phony.

  11. Susan K.No Gravatar says:

    Are you sure it’s the twang factor, or just that she doesn’t have a higher voice, like a LeeAnn Womack, Dolly, Elizabeth Coook, Ashley Monroe, etc.? I really like the exaggerated twang, but I’ve shared her music with friends, and they don’t like her, either. I wonder if this lack of perceived femininity plays a part? I’m not judging, I’m just wondering…to me the only thing I don’t like about this song are the mediocre lyrics. I’m so in love with Ashton’s debut album, though, that I’d forgive her most anything. I really think comparisons to Gretchen Wilson are inaccurate, though. Ashton’s vocals are nuanced and stylized – better compared to Ashley or Miranda, in my opinion.

  12. sugarNo Gravatar says:

    I can’t believe supposed country music lovers are whining about “twang”.
    first off, the song kick ass. it sounds like a classic.
    And she sings it with conviction and sass.
    If you really like real country, this is thefirst best song of 2011

  13. Jon G.No Gravatar says:

    Susan K
    I think that the Wilson comparisons are largely inspired by Shepherd’s ‘redneck’ image.
    I also think that Wilson is capable of a nuanced performance, but she prefers instead to ape her own debut single. But your comparison to Lambert and Monroe is a fair one. All three are extremely talented singer-songwriters with clear visions for who they are as artists, which I think also describes Wilson. Still, I would agree with you that Wilson isn’t quite in the same league as those aforementioned ladies in terms of quality.

    This was an interesting review. Like Ben Foster opined, most critics are noting how much Shepherd’s twang has been toned down since her earlier material. Perhaps her vocal seems forced here because it is–just in the other direction. Shepherd’s twang feels much more genuine to me than, say, Jennifer Nettles’ when she randomly amplifies it on novelty tracks. Listening to singles like “All I Wanna Do” and “It Happens” next to album tracks like “Very Last Country Song” or “Love,” just to list a few examples from ‘Love on the Inside’ (the last record of theirs I listened to from beginning to end) is like sampling Kenny Chesney’s original cut of “Fall In Love” after his more recent songs. The contrast is awe-inspiring.

  14. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    @ sugar:

    I don’t mind twang; it comes with the country music territory. I do mind exaggerated twang, however.

  15. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Would you call Hank Williams or Loretta Lynn exaggerated twang?

  16. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    Nope, because they were extremely authentic and honest about it, and they didn’t sound like they were hammy.

  17. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I haven’t heard Shepherd speak. I wonder what the difference is in twang between her speaking voice and singing voice.

    Then again, that has limited value for evaluating authenticity, unless Alison Krauss is the fakest artist ever.

  18. RonNo Gravatar says:

    I have been waiting for Ashton to release a new song for a long time. I believe that all of the negative posts are due to ones inability to take each artist and their own talent and not compare it to anyone else. Listen to the music and listen to the words. Then look at the construction of the whole song. Feel the power in every song and here what it has to offer. It is true that not every song has as much emotion as the next, but give it a chance and quit comparing. If every artist was compared to older ones, there would not be any current stars, only old ones.

  19. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Ron,

    Look at our review of Ashton’s debut single, also written by me. It essentially negates everything you’ve claimed:

    http://www.countryuniverse.net/2007/08/29/review-ashton-shepherd-takin-off-this-pain/

  20. RonNo Gravatar says:

    I dont believe it contradicts her debut review at all. what I am talking about how she is compared to other artists in her genre, old and new. Granted, your first review is higher rated than this one, but judging her on the twang in her voice is not in my opinion is not a sufficient way to judge any country singer. I actually enjoy the direction she takes with her music, considering what some people call country these days. Dont take me wrong, but some of the songs are good in there entirety. For example, Unkle Kracker he has some catchy songs, but country-no. Arron Lewis is amesome with Staind and awesome by himself but country-no. And one that I believe should not have the word country in his definition is Colt Ford. Jimmie Rodgers would probably laugh at the notion that Colt Ford is anything country. When I listen to Ashton, she has a pure country voice with a down home feel, and a true country sound in her instruments. She should be more famous than she is, but due to this generations misunderstanding of what country music, and all other types of music, stand for and are, they have lost all individuality in the process.

  21. Joy E.No Gravatar says:

    Kevin John Coyne, There is no difference in her speaking and singing voice. She is 100% twang in her speaking voice. She doesn’t live too far from me and she is 100% country/twang/her music. You could search for interviews on Youtube to hear.

    It’s funny seeing and hearing all this “she’s too twangy and too country” when it comes to Ashton. I stopped listening to country radio because when I want to listen to country, I want to hear Ashton and other real country artist. Not pop music that “country” radio plays. We have left real country behind.

  22. RonNo Gravatar says:

    Amen, you said it all in your last sentence.

  23. MattNo Gravatar says:

    I am not sure what is wrong with twang. I find this song very refreshing compared to most of the female songs being put out there today. You cannot be critical of the sound in her voice. It is genuine and traditional, which is what I am looking for. Perhaps I should not be reading this review, or you should not be reviewing this song. There is an audience out there for this song and type of music. They may not agree with the mainstream country, but they know for sure that this is better than most. What happened to country? I thought it was all about that un-deniable twang, which is what this song has. Clearly from the review and comments that has changed but this song holds true to the tradition and foundation that I was raised on. I am really bothered by the fact that she is being compared to Loretta Lynn. So what if she grew up on Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. She is sticking to her roots and what she feels is country. Just because that does not appeal to your narrow country sound does not mean it is bad. True country fans can recognize Ashton’s country sound and celebrate her entire catalog. I cannot believe how much country has changed that this song is now on the fringe.

  24. courtNo Gravatar says:

    ok listen up ya idiot. i’m a teenager who loves country music even though that’s not what’s consider ‘in’ right now but the fact is i don’t care. it really doesn’t sound like you even like country music to begin with. i mean criticizing the twang in her voice? idiot! that’s country music’s signature! i just heard this song on the radio and i loved it. it’s funny, it makes me smile and i can relate to parts of it. and i’m sure you can’t carry a tune in a five gallon bucket so i think you should take that bullcrap review and stick it where the sun don’t shine. and another thing. did ashton shepherd OR gretchen wilson come out and say they were copycats of the great loretta lynn? the answer to that question would be an obvious NO. it just so happens they like the styles that are similiar to hers and i’m pretty sure loretta would tell you to shove it if she heard you say that. i agree with the guy above me. you shouldn’t be reviewing country songs if you don’t know what country music is. again, if you have a problem with twang in modern day country music, what about the great legends that started it all? hank williams? merle haggard? they were the kings of twang! are you gonna turn around and criticize them? i don’t think so, or i wouldn’t reccommend it unless you want an angry mob of country folks to show up at ur door. reviewing is obviously not ur strong suit, so get a life.

  25. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    “True country fans can recognize Ashton’s country sound and celebrate her entire catalog.”

    Not counting her indie release at age fifteen, Ashton has one album plus this single. Not much of an ‘entire catalog.’

    I like the twang in Ashton’s voice, personally, but I totally get how some people perceive it as exaggerated. It’s certainly more pronounced than Hank’s or Merle’s. A lot of people like the twang in Jennifer Nettles’ singing voice; I find that exaggerated. Being a country music fan is not about liking all things twangy.

  26. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    And be careful of your tone. Any other comments like that will be deleted.

  27. Country music fanNo Gravatar says:

    If you ever met Ashton and or road tripped to lower Alabama you will see there is no faking her country sound. She is what all other singers in the country music industry try to act and sound like. She is the real deal. Country, farmer, mother, wife, great writer, actually plays her guitar, and is as real as anyone could be. We could all use a dose of her reality check of who we are and not who we are trying to act like. Go Ashton Shepherd. I hope it goes to #1. hope to see you in Chicago soon.

  28. fanNo Gravatar says:

    If you knew her you would know she doesn’t have a fake bone in her body. She talks with the same twang that she sings with & always has. One thing about Ashton is that she sounds the same whether you hear her live or listen to her CD, when some singers you hear live sound nothing like their CD. She represents a lot of us “real” country girls very well because she is one of us!! I think she is great & I love the fact that she is not seeing just how much skin she can show or how NOT country she can get her songs & still be able to call it country!! I am from lower Alabama & “country music fan” you are right we all sound pretty twangy! lol!

  29. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    YouTube link for anyone who wants to hear Ashton’s speaking voice: (Pretty twangy!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEWBPEI4sZ0

  30. leroyalNo Gravatar says:

    She is every bit as fake as her “twang”. I know her personally. Used to be a great gal but has forgotten the roots she claims to cling so dearly to.

  31. WadeNo Gravatar says:

    Well, first off im extremely glad that Ashtons back, because shes one of my favorite singers that around these days. Ill agree the song choice isnt the greatest, but to say that her twang is fake and exaggerated, i mean are you serious? Have yall heard her talk? i dont understand that at all, i love her voice, and shes actually traditional country! Hope this one is a smash hit and we hear alot more from her!

  32. NoelNo Gravatar says:

    ASHTON SHEPHERD IS A MAN-HATER!! http://youtu.be/PdGrAO0ESts

  33. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Maybe, but she sure is one talented man-hater.

  34. heyNo Gravatar says:

    To “leroyal” I know Ashton very well & have for over 5yrs & I don’t agree with your comment at all!! One thing about small towns like Leroy a lot of people have a little bit of GREEN in thier eyes!! Ashton is the same girl she was the first time I met her! Its just a lot of the people who didn’t have the time of day for her then now want to act like a friend.

  35. Joy E.No Gravatar says:

    You’re right “hey”. People treat her differently now.

  36. Ed CNo Gravatar says:

    I liked the song the first time I heard it. Didn’t know who sang it. Had to look it up. It just sounds good to me and gets my foot tapping. Thought that was what country music was supposed to do.

  37. Donnie Marie WalshNo Gravatar says:

    Have been just waiting for a new song from Ashton, and this is good old genuine country stuff! Way to go, girl!

  38. RyanNo Gravatar says:

    Great song – great vocal and artist. These reviews are evidence that too many people just don’t get it.

    The song is clearly an A+ production effort on all fronts.

  39. Lulu BelNo Gravatar says:

    I like the song.It relates to me in a way.

  40. dennyNo Gravatar says:

    I met Ashton in person at a small venue in Iowa, where she was a guest judge for a country karaoke contest. She did a mini concert, acoustical, and I was wowed! Very personable, real, writes her own material, beautiful, wholesome(something country needs again) and poured herself into it.

    As for the forced vocals, the twang, I think majority of it is just her. She does have a strong Southern draw in her normal speaking voice.

    ‘look it up’ may not have impressed the likes of an english prof. but the play on words and the common use of the phrase is definitely contemporary.

    The first lady country artist, one of the few artist period I would consider ‘country’ in quite sometime.

  41. KarenNo Gravatar says:

    I’m a newcomer to country music fandom — just got hooked a couple of months ago. I love this song — the clever lyrics and the impassioned delivery pull me right in. Maybe I just don’t get what more experienced country reviewers are looking for, but I think this song kicks butt.

  42. RonnieNo Gravatar says:

    This reviewer is a crackhead. He dont know whats good and whats bad. I saw his crappy review on Rascal Flatts “Stand”. To be honest, he should stop reviewing songs and get some other work.

  43. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Careful, Ronnie. The site’s comment policy forbids insulting, antagonizing, or otherwise disrespecting authors or other commenters. Calling the author a “crackhead” qualifies.

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