Ashton Shepherd – Look It Up. You’ll find a foot-stompin’, hell-raisin, guitar-pickin’ woman hailing from a plot of land called Leroy, Alabama that has less of a population than my high school class. But perhaps that’s the mascot for “less is more” because Leroy, Alabama, The Pickin’ Shed and Ashton Shepherd is Where Country Grows – Look It Up !
I have to admit, I may owe Ashton Shepherd an apology – for not being familiar enough with her debut album to have formed an opinion based on its two single releases. It’s not that I didn’t like her. I did. I do. But I didn’t own her debut album, Sounds So Good, and didn’t get a chance to know her well enough through radio.
Ashton Shepherd emerged to radio in 2008 with Takin’ Off This Pain, the first single from Sounds So Good. I completely loved Takin’ Off This Pain – a strong woman with a hard hand but a tender heart – and that’s how I heard Ashton Shepherd in that track. But the second single and title track, Sounds So Good, didn’t hit me as hard and then it seems Ashton wasn’t around much on the radio to be heard.
Well, like a storm up from the south, Ashton Shepherd sneaks up with a powerful sophomore album, Where Country Grows, that has no fillers, no sophomore jinx and no reason not to love it !
In Look It Up, the album’s first single, Ashton re-emerges with the sass she introduced fans to in the personality of her previous album. Conceived in The Pickin’ Shed, Shepherd wrote or co-wrote 8 of the 10 tracks on Where Country Grows.
And no, “The Pickin’ Shed” is not Nashville’s newest recording studio. It’s Ashton’s creative cabin in the backyard of her Leroy farm where Shepherd raises a family, crops, her voice and sells the labor of all that love !
Ashton Shepherd has a very unique sound and an unusually strong and diverse vocal range. Blending a mixture of Ashton Shepherd, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, Shepherd doesn’t waste one minute or one track entertaining you with her vocal and songwriting diversity.
Where Country Grows may have been conceived in The Pickin’ Shed. But Where Country Grows is in the heart and soul of Ashton Shepherd, “in the hearts of those that know what life’s all about” and in stores July 12, 2011. Be sure to pick up or download a copy to your playlist because Ashton Shepherd knows how to plant, pick and harvest a crop Where Country Grows and delivers both an original and Deluxe Edition … to more than your local grocer !
But prior to delivery it must have been difficult picking the first release from the crop of Where Country Grows because there are just so many songs that raise their voice to what I’m going to call Shepherd’s signature sound – vocal and personal strength and sass – and could have had top billing.
The album is a pretty uptempo compilation of family, fun, life, love and introspection – you know, everything country – with a subtle mix of tender ballads that allow you to stop and catch your breath. But the stories are delivered flawlessly through a set of pipes that must echo through the star-filled skies of Leroy, Alabama where there’s “no noise, no red lights and no buildings messin’ up my moonlight” Ashton cheers in More Cows Than People – a strong contender in my opinion for a first release.
As is the title cut, Where Country Grows, a song so visually rich in detail you’ll not only smell the honeysuckle and feel the breeze, but by the time Shepherd finishes winding you down those country roads you’re definitely going to feel you’re missing out on life and you’ll wish you lived there.
It’s hard to pick a favorite off this album. Beer on a Boat is a hell-raising Saturday night anthem while Tryin’ to go to Church is a Sunday morning confession of why “I keep saying Lord I’m gonna get to ya”. The tender ballad While It Ain’t Raining reminds us that “life’s like the weather, always changing, better make the most of it all … while it ain’t raining.” And in I’m Just a Woman, Ashton tenderly delivers a Tammy Wynette sounding tribute to women and relationships while in one of Ashton’s favorites, Rory’s Radio, she steps it up to a toe-tapping tribute to a time, a place and a brother (Shepherd’s) killed in a car accident. But don’t worry about whether Ashton’s heartbroken. By the time I’m Good is over there’ll be no doubt in your mind that Ashton survived that breakup. And That All Leads to One Thing . . .
If you’re familiar with Ashton then you’ve probably been waiting for this sophomore follow-up album. If you’re not familiar with Ashton Shepherd then Look It Up because Ashton Shepherd is a refreshing reminder of Where Country Grows.