Ashton Shepherd

Leeann Ward’s Top Ten Albums of 2008

December 27, 2008 // 7 Comments

#10 The SteelDrivers, The SteelDrivers Chris Stapleton’s voice just blows me away. As Lee Ann Womack has recently observed, he sings like a real man. He takes Travis Tritt’s soulfulness to a whole new level. With incredible harmonies and terrific songs not limited to “Blue Side of the Mountain” and “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey”, this is a strong project that certainly stood out in 2008. #9 Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Comal County Blue I love Boland’s folk-tinged country voice, which sings these memorable fiddle laden melodies to great affect. While the lyrics can be abstract at times, they still manage to feel meaningful. I’ve come to realize that what ultimately appeals to me about this album is the fact that it reminds me of good nineties country music, which is the era that drew me to this genre in the first place. #8 Darrell Scott, Modern Hymns My admiration for Read More

Leeann Ward’s Top Singles of 2008

December 27, 2008 // 12 Comments

Here are my favorite singles of 2008. As Dan has done, I lifted the entries that I had already written from our collective list for this article. #20: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Please Read The Letter” The album from which this song comes seems like an unlikely collaboration. It, however, somehow works as one of the best albums of the decade and any song from it would make my top twenty singles list this year. #19: Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer” Hank Williams III is known for relishing a rebel persona and this attitude is often reflected in his music. More often than not, his songs contain observations wrapped in harsh lyrics that cause me to wince, but his production and voice, which are both more comparable to Hank Sr. than Hank III’s father, still draws me to his music, nonetheless. This song, however, is simply pure Read More

Blake Boldt’s Year-End Lists

December 25, 2008 // 5 Comments

Happy holidays! Singles: 1.  “In Color,” Jamey Johnson 2.  “Waitin’ on a Woman,” Brad Paisley 3.  “This Is Me You’re Talking To,” Trisha Yearwood 4.  “She Left Me for Jesus,” Hayes Carll 5.  “What I Cannot Change,” Leann Rimes 6.  “Last Call,” Lee Ann Womack 7.  “Anything Goes,” Randy Houser 8.  “Dig Two Graves,” Randy Travis 9.  “Please Read the Letter,” Alison Krauss & Robert Plant 10.  “Fine Line,” Little Big Town 11.  “Mockingbird,” Allison Moorer 12.  “Crazy Arms,” Patty Loveless 13.  “This Town Needs a Bar,” Jeremy McComb 14.   “Just Got Started Loving You,” James Otto 15.  “Takin’ off This Pain,” Ashton Shepherd 16.  “Gold,” Emmylou Harris 17.  “Every Other Weekend,” Reba McEntire & Skip Ewing 18.  “You Look Good In My Shirt,” Keith Urban 19.  “More Like Her,” Miranda Lambert 20.  “Love Don’t Live Here,” Lady Antebellum

Dan Milliken’s Top 20 Singles of 2008

December 23, 2008 // 6 Comments

Let’s do this, y’all. You’ll recognize some of these write-ups from our collective list, but others weren’t posted there or were cut down for that list. This is my “Director’s Cut” version, you might say – or maybe the “UNRATED!!” version, depending on your taste in films. In any case, here are my favorite 20 things designated as country music singles in 2008 (that I picked up on, anyhoo): #20 Elizabeth Cook, “Sunday Morning” Cook mines an abstract Velvet Underground song and halfway convinces you it was always meant to be a quiet country reflection. The production and vocal are a bit too buoyant to fully convey the song’s weariness, but they do flesh out its gentle message of hope, and that’s not too bad, either. #19 Hank Williams III, “Six Pack of Beer” Silly and shallow it may be, but III’s turbo-campy lament of hard times + booze was Read More

Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 4: #10-#1

December 19, 2008 // 37 Comments

Our top ten singles of the year represent the very best of what country music is and what country music can be. With a combination of rising stars and veteran artists, it’s clear that the genre has worthy guardians waiting in the wings, even as the current keepers of the flame show no signs of fading away. #10 Ashton Shepherd, “Takin’ Off This Pain” I cheated a bit by throwing this one into the mix, since it was technically released last fall. But as it wasn’t on the site’s 2007 singles countdown and didn’t even peak until this past May, I’m going to take this opportunity to opine, quite simply, that this single paints the best kind of picture of everything contemporary country in the 2000’s can be. It’s not pure traditionalism, as some have suggested – there’s a lot more modern drive than old-school shuffle at work here – Read More

News: USA Today and Entertainment Weekly Announce Best-of Music Lists

December 18, 2008 // 6 Comments

The music critics at USA Today have announced their favorite singles and albums from the last year.  Brian Mansfield, the newspaper’s Nashville correspondent, named Jamey Johnson, Kathy Mattea and Taylor Swift on his ballot, with Mattea also garnering a mention from critic Ken Barnes. Entertainment Weekly‘s Chris Willman has also weighed in with an all-genre albums list that included Lee Ann Womack and an underrated gem from Nashville resident Sheryl Crow.  Leah Greenblatt also lists her album choices, along with a slate of the top ten singles (Ashton Shepherd’s “Sounds So Good” ranks No. 9) and the five worst singles (No.5  is Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country”).

Discussion: SoundScan Sound Off

December 17, 2008 // 30 Comments

In this era of rampant piracy and economic recession, things aren’t looking good for the music industry.   We don’t post too often about the business side of the music business here, as we tend to keep the focus on the music.   But the reality is that these numbers matter.  If Little Big Town’s second Equity album had performed as well as the first, the label might still be in business. It’s not all doom and gloom, as many artists go on to make their best music once they leave major labels.   But this Christmas, you can guarantee that some artists and record executives will be bracing for the New Year, while others are embracing it. Here’s a look at some totals for albums released in 2008, ranked by total sales (rounded to the nearest thousand): Taylor Swift, Fearless – 1,519,000 Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,179,000 George Strait, Troubadour Read More

Best Country Singles of 2008, Part 2: #30-#21

December 16, 2008 // 23 Comments

The list continues today with the next ten entries, a collection of hits, could’ve been hits and should’ve been hits. Adventurous radio programmers, take note. #30 Little Big Town, “Fine Line” There’s a fine line between imitation and tribute, and Little Big Town lands on the proper side of the balance.  Karen Fairchild steps forward on this flashback to ’70s SoCal country-rock, and her biting, expressive performance matches perfectly with an admonishment of a distant lover. Very fine, indeed.  – BB #29 Willie Nelson, “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore” This ridiculous but fun single just sounds like a Willie Nelson song. While it’s a 2008 single, it sounds as though it could have been recorded at the height of Nelson’s career. Moreover, Willie’s voice sounds as strong as ever here.  – LW #28 The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs & Ashley Monroe, “Old Enough” A thrilling, organic collaboration that sounds Read More

Discussion: Country … on Broadway?

November 22, 2008 // 10 Comments

I fell in love with Broadway musicals at age 6 when my parents took me to see “Camelot”. It was a truly magical experience, and over the years I’ve often wondered if my early love of musicals contributed to my discovery of country music, as both rely on the emotional connection developed through story songs. In recent years, a number of mainstream musical artists have ventured onto “The Great White Way.”  Among them former American Idol contestants and pop stars. For the most part country music stars have stayed away, but Reba McEntire stands out as a noteworthy exception. In 2001, she starred in “Annie Get Your Gun” to great acclaim. Even as a mid-run replacement she was given a special Drama Desk award, among others. She also gave a memorable turn as Nellie Forbush in the Carnegie Hall production of “South Pacific” in 2006. While I do believe the experience may Read More

Ashton Shepherd, Sounds So Good

August 11, 2008 // 8 Comments

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 Read More

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