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Album Review: “Sounds So Good” by Ashton Shepherd

December 7, 2008

Sounds So Good cover

4 Stars

 

 

This was an album from 2008 I didn’t think I wanted to bother with. Ashton had two great debut singles, but I didn’t expect that she would have the potential to actually offer up a full album of good music. I thought she’s too new, she’s two girlish, she’s too country, she’s too this and too that. Boy was I wrong.

For her debut project Ashton penned or co-penned every single track, save for one which closes the album. The interesting thing about her is that she really is her own person. Not once in this project does she let the factors of her life, from being a wife to being a rising country singer, stop her from telling it how it is. What’s also quite intriguing is that Ashton manages to dodge a common fatal flaw among newcomers here by focusing of a broad range of subjects rather than one particular one and showing off every aspect of her talent rather than focusing completely on letting everyone know she can sing.

Behind this mother and devoted wife lies a girl with attitude, a gentile soul, a powerful traditionalist and a true blue American woman. If you want proof, all you need it to listen to her debut singles “Takin’ Off This Pain” and the title track “Sounds So Good”. Where one is a harsh and destructive verbal punch to the face against an ex-boyfriend who did her wrong, the other is a peaceful and respectable tribute to the natural country life that Ashton grew up in. It’s these songs that help to lay down the foundation for this project by not only introducing Ashton’s powerful ability to relate life to music but also by revealing the true Ashton Shepherd, not a poster child for her MCA record label.

Ashton’s debut album offers a nice mix of slow and powerful ballads and fast and enjoyable songs about bring yourself and enjoying life. These fast paced, fun songs all add a little bit of honkey tonk to Ashton’s presentation, an aspect that, as you listen to the record, she is very proud of. They also range over many different areas. Where “The Pickin’ Shed” offers insight into a group of friends who get together in the narrator’s backyard to pick guitars and enjoy each others company, “The Bigger The Heart” adds comical commentary into how even the toughest man can fall real hard if they have a big heart.

Probably the two most personal for Ashton are her upbeat songs “Not Right Now” and “I Ain’t Dead Yet”. Both of these songs draw attention to Ashton’s position as a wife and a mother and put into question the expectations of everyday life for a respectable American woman. They show a real sense of maturity, but personal relevance when Shepherd approaches her material as she tries to prove a point by stating that just because she is a lady doesn’t mean she’s a puppet. In fact this seems to be what this album is all about, denying Ashton as the stereotypical woman and defining her as her own person.

Feeling, emotion and sincerity litter Shepherd’s powerful ballads here. “Old Memory” and “Whisky Won The Battle” both focus of the struggle of escaping the feelings that one has for an ex. In both cases Ashton comes face to face with the memory and reality of her feelings for an ex-boyfriend that in the end begin to destroy her from the inside out, a reality that she shows off quite well in her rendition of the songs. A personal favorite of mine, however, is “How Big Are Angels Wings”, a track that stands out on its own from the rest of the project. This particular song has its own message as Ashton tells the story of a young girl who confides in her doctor what she can’t in her parents, her contemplation of death.

Ashton’s ability as a writer and a singer are present well throughout this project. What I thought was going to be a mediocre attempt at becoming a new age traditionalist artist actually turned out to be a personal and stripped down revealing of an artist who knows who she is and refuses to let go of that, in fact embrassing that throughout her own material. I look forward to what else Ashton has to offer in the future.

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