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Shepherding a Grown Up Country
on July 12, 2011
Prime Cuts: I'm Good, I'm Just a Woman, Look It Up
Shepherd makes songs her confessional booth. Never one to be restrained to express her disgruntle with the darker side relationships, Shepherd has articulated them poetically as well as realistically through her smoky low key balladry on her debut disc "Sounds So Good." Though the CD received rave reviews from critics, it only generated one top 20 hit "Taking Off this Pain." For album number 2, Shepherd has wizened up by encompassing a broad scope of songs, such that not every track reeks with heartbreak eased only by the numbness of alcohol. Rather, the plethora of subject has broadened to encompass life's more blissful moments, including a couple of silly summer fun tunes, and a couple of tunes dealing with life in general. Even when she sings about the duds in her life, she no longer bodies herself in her victim mentality. Rather, she bites back with fiery cynicism an tongue-in-cheek comeback lines. Thus, "Where Country Grows" is relatively more mature and more balanced. Thanks are given to a larger pool of co-writers sharing ink with the songstress including current hit writers Rhett Akins, Marv Green, Robert Ellis Orrall, Bobby Pinson, Dean Dillon and Ben Haylsip.
Following in the footsteps of Miranda Lambert, Shepherd takes a stance for strong, tough and feisty woman on lead single "Look It Up." Where kiss-off songs abound in country music, "Look It Up" is a standout. A sassy moderate uptempo kicker, Shepherd not only shows her cheating paramour the door but adds stinging insults to his intelligence in the process. Most hilarious is the line: "The word is easy, look it up/And you'll see a picture of that piece of trash/Ridin' 'round in your pickup truck." Dean Dillon, Dale Dodson and Ashton Shepherd's "I'm Good" is a great prequel as Shepherd assures her ex that she will not fall apart at their romantic demise. But Ashton is not one who always dons the tough chic masquerade she does confesses her vulnerability on the moving ballad "I'm Just a Woman." A sensitive plea to her man for more understanding as she details her struggles to balance life, romance and family as a woman "I'm Just a Woman" ought to be a song played during marriage therapeutic classes.
Breaking away from the molasses of relationships, Shepherd celebrates the values of rural living with the title cut "Where Country Grows." With vivid vignettes of gratuitous mentions of honeysuckle and a young boy opening the door for an old lady, Shepherd charms us with the values of the South on the midtempo "Where Country Grows." More nostalgic moments are found on the album's closer "Rory's Radio" where Shepherd brings us into scenes of her diary while growing up and how the songs on the radio had helped her on critical junctures. "Trying to Go to Church," a Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Shepherd composition is an average barn burner where Shepherd confesses her struggles to live a morally spotless life. Shepherd goes bluesy on the misfired "That All Leads to One Thing" and "More Cows than People" sounds too much thematically to the title cut.
Giving her penchant for melancholy and morose a back seat, Shepherd actually leaves tearsville for a fun boat ride on the beach on the rowdy "Beer on a Boat." With strong fiddled intro that calls to Alan Jackson's "Summertime Blues," "Beer on a Boat" sounds like a radio wave lighter. Though not perfect, "Where Country Grows" shows depth for Shepherd as an artist and it is good to see her taking steps to broaden her portfolio. Relative to her debut, this is a much more solid,, matured and ultimately more satisfying effort.