Album Review: Ashton Shepherd – Sounds So Good

Matt Clark | February 18th, 2008

Ashton Shepherd - Sounds So Good It’s tough for some traditional country fans to admit that the days when every budding country music star steps off the bus in Nashville from the cottonfields of Dyess, Arkansas or the coal mines of Butcher Holler, Kentucky are over. This shift accelerated in the 1990s, when Windsor, Ontario native Shania Twain became the best selling female artist of all time and shared the airwaves with, of all people, Princeton, New Jersey born singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. These days, it seems like artists who don’t land in Nashville after moderately successful Hollywood acting or pop music careers are moving there from places like Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, which is maybe somewhere near the heartland if not exactly the “country.”

Against this backdrop emerges Ashton Shepherd, who comes to Nashville from Coffeeville, Alabama by way of Leroy. A mother and wife by age 19 with a syrupy sweet drawl and self-penned songs about getting drunk and falling out of love, it’s hard for traditionalists not to celebrate MCA’s new artist as the second coming, a messiah to save country radio from all those Barbie Dolls who’d rather wiggle their glittering fuchsia toenails on MTV than sing Webb Pierce songs with the house band at some Alabama honky tonk. Sounds So Good, the debut album from this much-anticipated artist, makes it difficult to confuse Ashton with female artists in this other group. She doesn’t sing handpicked pop-country gumdrops from top Nashville songwriters but 11 tracks written solely by Shepherd and her brother-in-law Adam Cunningham.

Producer Buddy Cannon has worked hard to give Ashton a sound that is undeniably traditional yet surprisingly not far afield from pop-country radio polish. The album’s heavy on steel guitar, nasal twang and drawn-out vowels, but there’s no reason to fear that songs which sound more like early Sara Evans than Kitty Wells can’t slide relatively seamlessly into the radio rotation. Of these, lead single and album opener “Takin’ Off this Pain” is the most radio friendly. Ashton’s performance and writing are equally impressive: you can “hear” the sneer on her face as she navigates a song that’s angry yet smart and brash yet self-aware. Of the countless songs that have been recorded about life in the country, none “Sounds So Good” as Ashton’s title track: a telecaster and steel guitar do battle as Ashton sings about country music and “a cooler slushin’ on the bed of your truck,” a turn of phrase with more sincerity than the usual lines about cracking open a beer.

The fingerpicked guitar, synthesized keyboard and muted strings of “Lost in You” make for a jarring third track, but it’s not a terrible production decision given the content of the lyric. Ashton says she wrote this song at age 15, and I believe her: it’s the kind of saccharine and bland declaration of love that populates pop radio but the fact that it’s performed in an Alabama drawl makes the worst track on the album at least listenable. Things improve quickly with “I Ain’t Dead Yet,” a housewife protest that stands in clear succession to Loretta Lynn’s most famous material and can only be written and sung from lived experience. Ashton’s take on the theme is quieter and more desperate than Lynn’s: she stretches syllables in agony as she longs to listen to some “Keith Whiiiiiiitley on the raaaaaaaaaadio.”

Country ain’t country without love lost, and Ashton gives us two strong offerings in this category. Cannon’s production of “Old Memory” sounds too much like “Lost in You,” but Ashton saves the song by realizing that “I am a grown woman, I should have already set myself free” while wallowing in the memory of the lover she once had. “Regular Joe” is a nice continuation of this theme as Ashton approaches her ex’s new lover, not to make a scene ala Miranda Lambert but to remind her to hold onto the man who “ain’t your regular Joe.”

What missteps there are on this album are more or less salvaged by a jaw-dropping voice that could make Ashton the next vocal superstar. “How Big are Angels Wings?” is one of those horribly predictable and trite childhood cancer odysseys that has provided radio’s emotional fodder for years, but it’s difficult for even the most hardened radio listener not to feel a little something as Ashton opens her mouth wide and lets go with, “how biiiiiiiiig are angggggel wings?” “The Pickin’ Shed” is a nice portrait of the ramshackle cabin on Alabama cropland where Ashton’s music was born, but it competes with “Sounds So Good” as the album’s frame: Ashton and company would’ve been better off choosing one of these meta-songs. Likewise, “Not Right Now” treads on the same ground covered by the title track but is much less imaginative: who doesn’t “like my music loud / with a real big crowd / and a cooler close by?”

The album’s final two tracks may be the most important, as Ashton demonstrates versatility that is important to her long-term viability. “The Bigger the Heart” is an infectious little ditty about men who get silly over women and it’s the only song on the album that doesn’t shoot for something big. The fact that it’s still written and executed well is important in an industry where every commercial artist has to do their share of fluffy pandering. It’s hard to tell exactly what Ashton is singing about in “The Whiskey Won the Battle,” the only song on the album on which she does not have a writing credit, but it has something do with drinking away an old memory and it’s clear that Ashton believes it. What begins as a reserved vocal performance builds to a loud crescendo, as Ashton wails, “I had a headache when I woke up this morning” before concluding that “the whiskey won the battle but your memory won the war” over blaring guitars and a crying fiddle.

I was there on September 29, 2007, the night when Ashton Shepherd made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and Porter Wagoner made his last, and I left a believer. During her first performance, Little Jimmy Dickens remarked to onlookers in the wings, “that girl has never heard a pop song in her life,” while at the night’s second show, host Bill Anderson shared Buddy Cannon’s observations that “this girl’s so country she makes Loretta Lynn sound like she’s from Liverpool.” To Ashton’s credit, her debut album doesn’t attempt to validate those observations. It’s not a statement for traditional country music, and it’s not devoid of Nashville tricks and polish. Rather, it’s an album by a woman who’s from the country and is singing what she knows about, and it Sounds So Good.

4 Stars

3 Pings

  1. [...] Read Matt C.’s glowing review of Sounds So Good from earlier this morning. [...]
  2. [...] Matt’s review of Ashton Shepherd’s forthcoming album, the issue of experience in songwriting and whether or not it is a prerequisite to crafting a more [...]
  3. [...] Ashton Shepherd - Sounds So Good During her first performance [at the Grand Ole Opry], Little Jimmy Dickens remarked to onlookers in the wings, "that girl has never heard a pop song in her life," while at the night's second show, host Bill Anderson shared Buddy Cannon's observations that "this girl's so country she makes Loretta Lynn sound like she's from Liverpool." To Ashton's credit, her debut album doesn't attempt to validate those observations. It's not a statement for traditional country music, and it's not devoid of Nashville tricks and polish. Rather, it's an album by a woman who's from the country and is singing what she knows about, and it Sounds So Good. - Matt C. [...]
  1. Lanibug65
    February 18, 2008 at 8:56 am

    what is the release date???

  2. Chris N.
    February 18, 2008 at 10:42 am

    March 4.

  3. Rick
    February 18, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I was listening live to the Opry the night of Ashton’s debut via WSM online and my music radar went off big time. I became an immediate fan and am really excited that her debut album is actually being released at all, what with the shelving of great debuts by Ashley Monroe and Sarah Buxton. I have pre-ordered my copy and can hardly wait.

    The following is a short excerpt from a “Billboard” article on Ashton being “Fast Tracked” from a week or so back that is really telling. The last sentence says it all and I’m really glad Luke Lewis feels the way he does about Ashton and her music.

    “Shepherd was signed in April 2007, and her first single was released in September, the same month that she made her Grand Ole Opry debut. Her album “Sounds So Good,” will be released March 4.

    Universal Music Group Nashville chairman Luke Lewis says the accelerated pace was warranted. “Some people would accuse us of rushing it, but a lot of it had to do with a feeling that it would be great to capture her work and her songs before they became affected by the business,” he says.”
    (Source: Billboard/Reuters, January 8, 2008)

    I really hope Ashton gets accepted by the Top 40 mainstream country radio establishment, although the recent treatment of Gretchen Wilson’s singles doesn’t bode well for an artist like Ashton……

  4. CF
    February 18, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Good review! I preordered my copy last night from Best Buy and I’m stoked to listen to it on my iPod.

  5. Double-L
    February 20, 2008 at 12:16 am

    A girl who went to her record deal appointment with over 400 songs… IN HER HEAD. MCA said, “Let’s see your material.” She told ‘em, “Well, it’s not really written down. But I can sing ‘em for ya!” Now that’s country!

    Ashton is a breath of fresh air to our format and I’m just so stoked to have GREAT talent like this bring some more tradition onto the airwaves!

  6. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I am literally counting down the days till this album comes out!! Ashton is unreal. Her talent is so obvious and I think a lot of people will relate to her songs. I am so excited for her!! You go girl!!!

  7. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve only heard one song from her, but I don’t really consider her to be recognizable. At first I thought it was a Miranda Lambert song. To be honest, I can’t even remember the name of the song or the tune. When I saw the video I thought it was a Gretchen Wilson knock-off a little bit.

    I have a hard time believing that she knows 400 songs on the top of her head though, unless they’re all one-line-songs.

    Let’s be honest with ourselves, the only reason they rush to sign anybody these days is to keep up with the times. After Taylor Swift, everybody wants to sign a young female singer. They think they can slip their way into that same market. The record industry not wanting music to be affected by the industry!? Good one! Hahaha…

    I’ll wait for another few songs before I make my decision on if I’m a fan or not.

  8. Brady Vercher
    February 20, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Lucas, Ashton doesn’t sound like Miranda and I don’t get the constant comparisons to Gretchen Wilson.

    If I recall correctly, Dale Watson as an obscene number of songs memorized and John Rich is known for his excellent memory, so I don’t understand why it’s hard to believe that Ashton could remember so many songs off the top of her head. If she didn’t have a good memory, I’m sure she would have written them down at one time or another.

    Taylor and Ashton aren’t meant to appeal to the same market and labels have always been signing young female acts. Ashton is a few years older than Taylor and has much more experience to draw upon, which definitely adds an element to her songs that isn’t present in Taylor’s songs, so the comparisons aren’t really warranted.

  9. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    She gets Gretchen Wilson comparisons because she seems like a Gretchen Wilson for a younger generation. Is that an insult!? I don’t believe so.

    Where does she have more experience, I’d have to say I’m a bit confused on that one. Does “experience” really make you a better artist? Does everybody have to live a hard-knock-life? I mean, I grew up in a poor neighborhood but that doesn’t make me a country singer, neith does frog-catching or even my great-grandma being a bootlegger. What makes me a country singer is my music. Am I supposed to deal crack before I have expereience!? Where will the madness end!? Where will it end!? (Ok, now I’m just joking around – before anybody gets angry at me, but the great-grandma, frog, poor stuff is actually true – it just doesn’t mean anything to me as far as music goes)

  10. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    And yes, IN MY OPINION, she sounds like Miranda Lambert. But that’s only opinion. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

  11. Brady Vercher
    February 20, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I don’t think the Gretchen comparison is an insult, I just don’t think it makes any sense.

    Life experiences. Ashton has more experiences in life, giving her more to drawn upon. She’s been married, has a kid, and can actually drink. Taylor just graduated high school and her music comes across as immature, not that that is necessarily a bad thing at this point in her life, but outside of the teen demographic, it doesn’t have much to offer. As far as who is a better vocalist, I think Ashton wins that contest hands down.

    And yes, experience does matter. Harlan Howard told Gary Allan, “You can write, son, but you don’t have anything to say. You need to get married and divorced a few times,” which is basically saying that he needed to experience life before his music would become worthwhile.

  12. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    So ever country artist needs to be a drunk now? Hm, we’ll see where that goes. But I highly doubt that’s going to happen. That era is past, the dangers of drinking/smoking/drugs are to prevalent in today’s society to ignore.

    I can get married when I’m 16 in some states, but what experience is that supposed to give me?

    Because when you were in high school you were incapable of having emotions or falling in love, right?

  13. Kelly
    February 20, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Lucas: you cant possibly be suggesting that someone who posesses a talent for songwriting isnt only enriched as a songwriter by turbulent life experience. While it’s sad that one must go through pain of any kind, it is often the greatest pains in life that drive the most profound art, regardless of the form of art. While someone who has never been divorced can write a song about the feelings attached to that life-altering event, it cant possibly have the depth and insight that a song written from someone who has felt that sting before would convey, providing that both people actually had the talent for songwriting. No one has said that you must be a drunk or druggie to write songs well, or whatever other legalistic comment you continue to make without bothering to take the full context of the discussion into consideration. Would “Sunday Morning Coming Down” have meant anything had Kristofferson not actually experienced the lonliness and emptiness that he described in such detail?? That sincerity cant be faked, it must be felt.

  14. Shiloh
    February 20, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    This album is amazing. You can sneek peek it at her label website. It’s very RARE that I give this much credit to an artist right off the bat but when you got it….you got it and Ashton definitely has it. Very excited to watch her explode

  15. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Don’t bring Kristofferson into this!

    My point is that you don’t have to have a horrible life to be a great country singer. You can’t be suggesting that “Friends In Low Places” and “The Dance” are awful songs because they weren’t written by the artist. Or that the sincerity in “Paint Me a Birmingham” or even “Three Wooden Crosses” is faked.

    Kelly, I’d like to get a response as to how I’m not taking the full context into consideration. I’m obviously not going to respond to things I agree with and say they’re also wrong.

    I have a feeling a lot of the songs you enjoy whether it be about hard times or a story, never actually happened to that person or even the songwriter. Let’s get down to what music is supposed to be about – emotion.

    Did anybody here want Taylor Swift to apologize for beinga good role model? When a singer comes out in a televised commercial and tells kids that drugs are bad (even if they’ve previously been a user) are we supposed to write letters to their fan clubs demanding they reverse this so that new songwriters will have real emotion in their songs?

    Honestly, if you’d like me to respond on another part of the comments, just tell me what part. I’m not going to apologize for having morals. Isn’t country supposed to be about morals? How can it be if all the country singers are having “experience”?

  16. Lori
    February 20, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I LOVE her; both as an artist and what I’ve seen of her as a person. (youtube) I also cannot wait for her CD to be released! But I don’t understand comparing her to other female artists. Maybe I just have an “ear” for music but I can totally tell the difference between her and others. She sounds like Ashton. If she bares any similarities it’s cause she real and country.

  17. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Everybody has similarities to somebody else in one aspect or another in my opinion. I can draw you a million between Garth and Strait but they’re both amazing.

  18. Matt C.
    February 20, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Lucas: Ashton lived in Alabama, married young and had a child. How do you get from there to immoral? The genre has always had a balance of “role models” and “outlaws” and both groups can make good music. However, I don’t think it hurts for a country songwriter to have done some hard living, and I think that generally speaking such individuals write better country songs than those who have not.

    I don’t hear much Miranda or Taylor on Sounds So Good. There’s a bit of Gretchen Wilson but Ashton is a far superior vocalist.

  19. Brady Vercher
    February 20, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Lucas, you keep misrepresenting everyone’s arguments to make them easier to counter while ignoring the intent of their arguments. I stated that I didn’t get the constant comparisons to Gretchen Wilson and you somehow made it out that I thought that was an insult.

    I didn’t necessarily claim that experience makes someone a better artist, I noted that it adds an element to Ashton’s music that is missing from Taylor’s music, but I’ll take the bait and make the argument that experience does make you a better all-around artist.

    If experience didn’t matter, then why aren’t teenagers consistently writing songs on par with veterans? It’s just like any other job. You become a better guitar player with experience, an artist can better intepret songs with experience, and life’s experiences change the way you view things.

    Marriage is a commitment of love so much deeper than a high school fling and someone who hasn’t experienced that commitment is more than likely not able to comprehend the magnitude of it and write something without resorting to cliches or pandering. If you look at it as a legal institution, then your argument holds water, otherwise, it’s a moot point. The same with the birth of a child and the experience that goes with raising a child, so in that regard, experience isn’t only related to an immoral or hard-knock life as you claim. I don’t know where anyone suggested that experience is equatable with only negative events.

    You continue to misrepresent my argument by suggesting that I think every country artist needs to be drunk. However you came up with that, I’ll never know. No one said that songs not written by the artist are awful, either. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was sung by Johnny Cash to perfection and he wasn’t the one that wrote it, so that’s another straw man that you’ve fabricated.

    Do you think wisdom comes with age and do you ever look back to when you were younger at the things you did and wonder what compelled you to do them? How can someone accurately represent a feeling that they’ve never experienced?

    This might be a better way to convey it: Do you think Taylor is producing the best music she will ever produce right now, or do you think with age and experience that she will become better?

  20. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I’d argue, but my points were already made.

    I’m not sure if Taylor has produced her best stuff yet or not. We’ll see when new music comes out.

    Not every high school love story is a fling, there has to be millions of married highschool sweethearts running around.

  21. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    I am in Awe of Ashton’s songwriting ability and voice. Literally in AWE!! She is absolutely amazing. You can just hear the raw emotion coming through in her music. How awesome is it that her label was willing to produce an album with nothing but her songs?!! I often does that happen to a brand new artist? Obviously they saw what we are all seeing. True, original, authentic TALENT…there are no other words for it! I am so excited for her album release. I am counting down the days (13 more)!

  22. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Lucus…go listen to her album at

  23. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Her voice is good, I agree with that.

    I think we’re going to see a lot more of artists getting more creative control from here on out. Mainly because the unheard of success independent labels have been able to achieve.

  24. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Ashton and Taylor are on 2 totally different levels. To compare their vocals would be silly. It’s very obvious that Ashton is FAR superior!

  25. Brady Vercher
    February 20, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    And they were examined and found wanting. Like I said, you fabricated straw men to argue against and didn’t address the issue of experience realistically or logically. If that’s the way you want to leave it, then so be it.

  26. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    That’s up to matter of opinion.

    I think Taylor’s voice is more original. I’ll recognize her voice on the radio.

    Personally (call me crazy) I evaluate people in country on the “total package”. Can they deliver a meaningful song that doesn’t sound like everybody else? What’s their performance like? Most importantly, can they make you feel something? When I listen to Ashton’s music, I don’t feel anything. But when I listen to Taylor’s, I do. That’s going to change with who you are too, for some people it might be the other way around – some probably feel something from both, others from neither.

  27. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Brady, honestly? Are you really trying to continue the argument? I ended it, you won.

  28. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Are any of you aware that when Ashton recorded her album they used the scratch vocals? Every song is the first take. She nailed them all. No pro tools for Ashton!

  29. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    I was not aware.

    Trent Tomlinson used demos.

  30. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Lucus..have you ever listened to Taylor live?..i.e. CMA’s. She can not sing in tune to save her life! Horrible live, unlike Ashton who is unbelievable live.

  31. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    I’ve seen Taylor first-hand, inches away right up along the stage. I tend to disagree.

  32. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Lucus…Did you watch the CMA’S? You can’t POSSIBLY say she did good. It was awful. Sounded nothing like how she sounds on her album. You know her voice was totally doctored up.

  33. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    It’s just my opinion are entitled to yours

  34. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    My name is spelt with an “A” not a “U”.

    Yes, I watched the CMAs. Their audio is always off. They could even make Conway sound like crud. (Ok, maybe not Conway, but you get my point)

  35. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Bad audio has nothing to do with singing in tune. Other people that night sang in tune with the same audio. My point is that Ashton has a voice that needs nothing done to it to make it better unlike most people on the radio right now. Once pro tools is added to Taylor’s voice she is great, but you know it is not ALL her. The true test of how good an artist is, is when you hear them live. In my opinion Ashton’s got it! She has a very recognizable radio voice too that when you hear her, you know it’s Ashton. Sorry for messing up your name Lucas!

  36. Kayleigh
    February 20, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I like the song Whiskey Won the Battle off of her album. That should be her next single!

  37. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    That’s alright, for some reason it happens all the time. And I’ve never even met anybody that spells it that way.

    In my own opinion, Taylor can more than hold her own. If it’s not her… who is it? Reverb can only go so far. Some of the songs on her album have no reverb at all. It is all her, I’ve seen her live.

    Time will tell if the general public can recognize Ashton’s voice. But in all honesty, who we should really be picking on is the contemporary “country” male singers that flood our radios. Can’t tell half of them apart!

  38. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Single opinion, “Old Memory” because it sounds the most original out of her songs.

  39. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    LucAs (hehe)…I just hope you will give Ashton a chance before you formulate opinions about her. She really, really is amazing and can sing like no other! To have over 400 songs in you head takes God Given talent that quite honestly not too many people can say they have. Hopefully you will listen to her complete album. I will be interested about what you think of it.

  40. Amanda
    February 20, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    I do agree with you on the male country singers!! For real you can’t tell half of them apart. YAY…something we can both agree on!

  41. Lucas
    February 20, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Male country singers have it easier when you think about it. Much easier to get signed, which might be changing a bit now, but it will go back again. Female country singer have to work twice as hard for a FRACTION of the pay-off.

    I wasn’t so much arguing about her as I was credentials.

  42. shiloh
    February 21, 2008 at 12:45 am

    I agree with Kayleigh! Whiskey Won the Battle is my favorite song on the album!

  43. Jaime
    February 21, 2008 at 6:53 am

    If there is anything right in this world, Ashton will make many albums. “Sounds So Good” is just fantastic.

  44. Jesse
    February 21, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I pre ordered a copy of Sounds So Good. I love Ashton and her sound and style. She keeps it real.

  45. Tatum
    February 21, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I pre ordered my copy as well. I can’t wait for it to get here. I will be playing it non stop. Such a great album from a fresh, traditional, and untouched artist. Nashville was smart!

  46. Cindy
    February 21, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Great review. after reading the review I went over to her label page and listened to the rest of the album and I believe she has many hits on it! It’s all around fantastic. Did she really write all of those songs? If so then that is Amazing. And she is only 21…too cool. I wish I could say that for myself. She must be so proud. I can’t wait to hear more from her and to see her perform live. Her sound is so unique too. That will really help her stand out from other artists. I am so glad Nashville signed a Traditional artist instead of a pop artist like Carrie and Taylor. It is about time country music got back to being COUNTRY. Thanks Ashton for being real for all of us true country folk.

  47. EricNashville
    February 21, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Cindy- It is true. Ashton wrote every song on the album except for Whiskey Won the Battle; her brother-in-law Adam Cunningham wrote that one. That’s pretty much unbelievable huh! I am so happy that other people are starting to recognize her and she is certainly going to make a name for herself.

  48. Cindy
    February 21, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Ericnashville..that really is amazing. Whiskey won the battle is an awesome song too. So much soul and true pain comes across in that one. It’s like she lived it or something. It’s fantastic. I hope main stream radio gives her the recognition and air play that she truly deserves.

  49. Brady Vercher
    February 21, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I realize y’all are big fans of Ashton’s but could you quit abusing our open commenting policy and use one name. We have one or two people in here that make up about 7 or 8 of the different commenters.

  50. Chris N.
    February 21, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Do any of these comments originate from 60 Music Square East in Nashville, Tennessee?

  51. alison
    February 21, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I don’t want to get in the middle of this fight. So what if we just give Taylor Ashton’s pint of Crown and her cooler slushing in the bed of her truck and she what happens.

  52. Lucas
    February 21, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Good one Chris! Haha.

    We’ll just have to see where she goes from here I suppose. She’s got a voice.

  53. Joey
    February 21, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Nice review. I didn’t even know who Ashton was until I got on her and read this review. Takin off this pain is very catchy and I can see it doing very well. She has a nice sound and I like her style. Hopefully she will go places

  54. hairandtoenails
    February 21, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I think Ashton Shepard is great, and Taking Off This Pain is a good song. But it is not a great song. It has a nice hook, but the song reveals little psychological insight into why Ashton’s husband is no longer attracted to her or why she would seek to get drunk as the first act after she decides that her marriage is over.

    There have been a lot of “female empowerment” and “kiss off” type songs over the past 10 years, and this is lyrically an average song in this genre.

    I guess I don’t see how “Taking Off This Pain” shows more experience, more insight than one of Taylor Swift’s songs.

    I don’t want to sound harsh here because Ashton Shepard has a lot of talent. I hope she becomes a big star. But I welcome “Taking Off This Pain” because I like its traditional sound and its fun hook, not because I think it is lyrically insightful or mature.

  55. Klaus
    February 22, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I think many of you “FAIL” to realize that just because you write about “getting drunk” or “trying out 5th gear” (brad paisley) that does NOT mean that you have done those things!! Its lyrics…taken from phrases other people have said, done, experienced. All you have to do is read books to be able to come up with this stuff.
    as for the Album…The preview is on and is AWSOME!!! Definetly something I would buy!

  56. Brady Vercher
    February 22, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Klaus, I don’t think anyone has failed to make the distinction between writing about something and actually experiencing it. The argument is simply that experience, more often than not, adds a sense of depth and realism to a lyric.

  57. Mike Wallace
    February 22, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I have heard a few of her songs but like said above a few times I don’t think her voice is unique enough to really make a mark. If you look at many other females who stick around for awhile all of their voices are unique or they have a huge budget backing them and I don’t think she really has either.

  58. Lucas
    February 22, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    If you were to ask me what makes an artist popular, my answer will always be the same… promotion.

    The video wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. She might almost be at a disadvantage because of her age. Middle-aged women are going to go with Gretchen Wilson for their working class music. Younger girls are in love with Taylor Swift, because they can relate. When you look at Shepherd’s own age group, they’re still a couple years from getting married, not throwing their wedding band away.

    I’d like to personally see everybody that tries make it! But that, of course, is unrealistic.

  59. Amanda
    February 22, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    I have to disagree with Mike. Her uniqueness is exactly why I love her so much! She has a very distinct voice that when you hear it, you know it’s Ashton.

  60. Chris N.
    February 22, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I’m going to go the Goldilocks route and say her voice is just distinctive enough.

  61. ccf
    February 22, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I don’t think Hank Sr. would have been the great songwriter he was had he not had such a stormy marriage to Miss Audrey.

    There’s an indy artist I like named
    Billy Don Burns. Here is the opening verse to his song

    “Dark Side Of The Spoon”

    “His silhouette stands against
    the wall the shadow of a man
    who lost it all. He hides his
    face in darkness it helps
    conceal the pain

    He rides though the night
    down a lost highway
    through a hole he made in
    his vein to a plastic place
    where desperate dies
    on a dirty street called shame”.

    I don’t think if he hadn’t lived that he could have written lyrics like that and he sings it like that too.

  62. hairandtoenails
    February 22, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    I think experience is necessary for someone to be a good writer, but I would add that much experience can be vicarious. Of course, a person whose experiences are vicarious needs a vivid imagination so they can write convincingly from the perspective of characters who have had experiences that they, as writers, have never had.

    Say I want to write a novel about a prostitute. I don’t need to become a prostitute first (thankfully,) but I do need to do some research so I can write convincingly.

    Also, the relationship between experience and writing quality is lose. Clint Black has had more “experiences” since he married Lisa Hartman, but his songwriting has gone down the drain.

  63. ccf
    February 22, 2008 at 6:57 pm


    Well said. and I really really agree with you on Clint Black.

  64. Lucas
    February 22, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    I’m not sure it’s fair to compare anybody to Hank.

  65. Amanda
    February 27, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Less than a week till the album release. I can hardly wait!!!!!!!!!!!!

  66. Kelly
    February 28, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    I have to agree with Mike but add this… her voice is really wanting… not good to my ears.

  67. julie
    March 1, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Sounds So Good is an absolute county music masterpiece. Ashton is a prodigy in every since of the word. This album will go down in country music history. I have been waiting for an artist of her caliber to hit the industry for a longggggg time.

  68. Baron Lane
    March 1, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I gotta admit it. Sometimes something comes out of Nashville there days that I have to admit gets it right aside from all their intentions to do otherwise.

    It’s not enough that you can hit the note if I don’t believe what you’re singing. Production is a bit shiny for my taste but Ashton Shepherd brings the hillbilly goods and makes be believe.

  69. Boomer
    March 3, 2008 at 12:31 am

    The writer opens with disparaging remarks about Pennsylvania, as if were someone’s born or raised defines who they become. Bigoted, narrow minded, cliché “country music is southern” attitude. Makes you just not care what they have to say.

  70. Paul W Dennis
    March 4, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Good, authentic country voiuce, second to onl Amber Digby among the younger women, like George Jones, her forte seems to be the slow and medium tempo songs – I liked about 80% of the songs and I hope radio will play her

  71. Lori
    March 5, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Wow! This CD did as I anticipated: DELIVERED! I would have bought the CD based on tracks 1, 2, 4, and 6 alone.

  72. Lanibug
    March 5, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I have given it one full listen, and I have to say I really like her!

  73. SouthernBelle
    March 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Ashton is Great! A “real” country girl from South Alabama, you can’t get much “countrier” than that!There is nothing fake about her either, I am not knocking the talent that Jennifer Nettles has but, she come off as very “Pretend” southern from her accent to her actions. I wish Ashton the best and can hardly wait to see what is next for her.

  74. Alison
    March 6, 2008 at 10:02 am

    If anyone wants to see what the blog-bashers on CMT said about my list of Ashton’s 12 best lines from the album, click above. On one condition, though. Post a comment to stick up for me, Ashton and all the other women out there who relate to the stories about being young and fun loving.

  75. shiloh
    March 6, 2008 at 4:20 pm


    I got your back- Ashton will shut up those haters before too long

  76. Rambler
    March 6, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    I have known Ashton since she was born. She could sing surprisingly good when she was 2 years old. She has always been mature for her age, writing songs since she was about 6 years old before she could even spell very well. Someone would have to write them down for her. She has always been able to write with great insight, is NOT wild, she HAS NOT had a hard life, nor is she very much of a drinker. She is exactly as you see her. She loves her husband, her child and the rest of her family. She loves being a wife, mother, homemaker and cooking, too. If you would take the time to listen to her whole album, really listen, without interuptions you would figure that out. She also does know the words to hundreds of songs. She knows the words to current songs and tons of older songs. She also knows songs that are not even country. Yes, she does have that great a memory. People have always been amazed at the fact that she can sing almost any song that you can name by a popular artist although I don’t include rap here. I just pray that the music scene and music industry people won’t push drinking on her just because she is of age to have a drink. So many of our singers have already had a stint in rehab.

  77. shiloh
    March 6, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    If you want to see Ashtonnail Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams click below

  78. Klaus
    March 7, 2008 at 9:58 am

    thanks Shiloh, that is an awsome clip! thanks for sharing

  79. Klaus
    March 7, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I was told (by a real good source) that during the 12 man jam in Dallas a month or so ago, that Ashton was sitting around after the show off in a side room (with her husband too)playing guitars with some of the other artist, when it became her turn to sing/play (acostic by the way) she picked “The way I am” by Merrle Haggard… Mark Chestnut kind of snickered and said “I ain’t never seen a female sing that particular song”, to which Ashton just continued and completely Nailed the song…when she was thru, the guitar was then handed to Mark (Chestnut) and he comminted “Dam girl I didn’t have any idea you could sing like that”! Then Mark went on to say (since it was his turn to play/sing) “heck no its someone else’s turn, there ain’t no way I’m trying to follow that”! hehe

  80. CF
    March 8, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I received this album two days ago and I LOVE it. I also got Alan Jackson’s new one. I love both, but I gotta say it’s Ashton’s I prefer the most, even with having fewer songs. Her album is so country and so good that she may be tied with Lee Ann Womack for me with having the best debut album.

  81. Lynn
    March 9, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I waited until I heard the entire album before I commented here. I have to say that I really really really wanted to love this album because I’d love for a more traditional sound to be on the radio again. However, after having listened to this album in its entirety on Rhapsody, I have to say…”eh.” I didn’t love or even really like any of the songs. Her voice is strong, but she frequently hit strange notes (not bad, just weird, and it wasn’t the accent). On the whole it just didn’t work for me. I completely and totally understand the need for an artist like Ashton on the radio, but I think her hype at this point is outdistancing her talent. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for her next album.

  82. shiloh
    March 12, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Ashton’s album sold 8,000 copies in the first week…yes that’s right 8,000 copies in the FIRST week! The label was hoping for 6,000 and she blew that one out of the water! If you will recall Sugarland’s debut sold 4,000 in the first week. Looks like people are recognizing how talented Ashton is!

  83. Amanda
    March 13, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Wow Shiloh, that is AWESOME. I am proud to say that I contributed to that number!

  84. Kelly
    March 19, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I know this is way after the fact, but I finally picked up the album and I do love it. I love the richness of her twangy inflections. It is funny though that I dont think I have ever heard a cd where a “cooler” was a prominent player in TWO songs on that same cd. I dont know if that’s awesome or one too many times.

  85. Amanda
    March 19, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Kelly…glad you bought the album and gave her a chance. It really is a great debut album. She made it to #16 on the billboard charts her first week..outstanding! There is such a variety of songs on the album which is awesome! Most of the time you buy an album and only like 1 or 2 songs, but not this one. She touches on heartache, remorse, love, fun, and good times. All of which people can relate to. She also is going to be #15 on the CMT countdown this Friday!

  86. CF
    March 21, 2008 at 2:51 am

    I gotta say that my most favorite song on the album would have to be:
    “Whiskey Won the Battle”

    I just love the acoustic guitar intro and her strong accent. The music and the lyrics…just everything about it.

    Other high favs are: “Lost In You”, “I Ain’t Dead Yet”, “The Bigger the Heart”, “Takin’ Off This Pain”….ahh, you can’t go wrong with this album.

  87. Amanda
    March 21, 2008 at 7:13 am

    I totally agree with you CF. My favorite is Whiskey Won the Battle too. I just love that song! I am so impressed with this album. I can’t stop listening to it!

  88. Lisa
    March 21, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Good CD! I can’t wait to see Ashton perform live this summer! : )

  89. Lanibug65
    March 21, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I posted this on another thread here, but if anyone has XM, listen for her Drivers Ed performance, amazing – acoustic, just her and a guitar for two songs, an interview and couple of other songs from the album.

  90. todd
    April 8, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I just bought a copy the other day and WOW it is the best CD I’ve heard since Kerosene.If Country music directors have any sense, “Sounds So Good” will be a number one.The only thing that could slow her down is she may be too country for country radio sucess as crazy as that sounds,but I hope that won’t influence her to choose to sell out for radio play like so many others have.

  91. BirdMeat
    September 21, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Country music isn’t intrinsically Southern. It’s not intrinsically rural either, but certainly more so; not that “country polition” is anything new, cough, Patsy. It never was and insinuating a truly fine artist like Chapin -Carpenter is somehow less authentic because of her status as a northeasterner is inaccurate and insulting. Ditto Shania all though I would not place her in the same league as Carpenter in any regard. Carpenter is a top notch Singer Songwriter, Shania a Country Pop Star.

    Other than that it’s a pretty good article. Ashton Shepard is more than another new Singer Songwriter she’s an important timely new artist that will be making music for decades . She’s absolutely outstanding. I get shades of Loretta Lynn with her. An A+ talent, and the CD is 5 stars, a Modern classic. Ashton shares the best of current crop along with Jamey Johnson and Jerrod Nieman as truly outstanding and proof authentic Country music will never die.

  92. SW
    December 14, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    I just got this album the other day and am glad to see the9513 did a review of it when it came out. What an excellent album!

  93. Danielle Boyd
    November 18, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Hey, I was just gonna say that you ROCK! I know im a loser, but its true. I love your music. Well thanks for your time. Duces.

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