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Ashton Shepherd

Sounds So Good – 2008 (MCA Nashville)

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

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CDs by Ashton Shepherd

After listening to the first single, "Taking off This Pain," it would be easy to dismiss Ashton Shepherd as another Gretchen Wilson wannabe. Listen closely, though, and you'll hear hints of the twangy Jennifer Nettles and the hard-earned honesty of Loretta Lynn in those beyond-her-years vocals. This girl is country.

Impressively, Shepherd alone penned all but 4 tracks, all before hitting 21. While her songs lack the poetic shine of Carolyn Dawn Johnson or the wry wit of Brad Paisley, she makes up for it in the straightforwardness of the lyrics.

"Sounds So Good," with the lyrics "Nothing like the sound of a cooler slushin'/In the bed of your truck," is a celebration of country living, while "Pickin' Shed," inspired by a barn behind Shepherd's home in tiny Leroy, Ala., is a fun romp about a group of singer-songwriters making music together.

With "Old Memory" and "Not Your Regular Joe," Shepherd proves she can play scarred as well as she can sassy, wrapping lyrics like "I'm a grown woman/I should've set myself free/He's an old memory who don't remember me" in tear-drenched vocals.

While the record could benefit from more songs like "Pain," and "Pickin' Shed," for those looking for a true country sound, Shepherd's first effort sounds so good.