My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Ashton Shepherd – ‘Look It Up (EP)’

Ashton Shepherd’s fate has been uncertain in the three years since the release of her debut album Sounds So Good, which was acclaimed by traditionalists but underperformed commercially. In the past, artists in her position have been forced to modify their sound, toning down the twang, fiddles and steel in order to garner the approval of country radio and more mainstream appeal. And in more recent years, declining revenues for record labels have made it difficult for struggling artists to release new albums at all, without first racking up a big radio hit. It is, therefore, nothing short of miraculous that Ashton was not only allowed to release new music, but was able to keep the traditional country elements in her music front and center.

The title track, which Occasional Hope reviewed in December, has been slowly but steadily climbing the charts and is currently at #23. If it can climb higher than #20, it will become Shepherd’s highest-charting single to date. There is no reason to believe it will not do so; the catchy and energetic tune is easily my favorite single of 2011 so far, and is the strongest track in this four-song collection. “Where Country Grows”, one of two original compositions Ashton contributed to the project, is on the surface another “I’m from the country and proud of it” anthem, but she manages to sound sincere and authentic, preventing the tune from sounding cliched and overcoming the slightly too-loud production. “Beer On A Boat” is a little light lyrically, but the melody is infectious and it sounds like a good summertime tune. “More Cows Than People”, the second Shepherd-penned tune also celebrates country living, albeit a little more effectively than “Where Country Grows”, thanks to more vivid imagery in the lyrics.

Throughout the four tracks, Ashton sounds both enthusiastic and at ease. Her Alabama accent is never toned down, nor does it sound exaggerated and affected. If the current single manages to become her commercial breakthrough, she may be well positioned to become country radio’s token traditional-leaning female, a niche that has been vacant since Patty Loveless slipped off the charts. It would have been nice to have had a ballad thrown into the mix, but that minor flaw can be overlooked due to the restrictions imposed by limiting the collection to four tracks.

Though I was initially disappointed that Look It Up was only an EP, the four tracks are all strong ones, and after such a long wait, I’m happy to have any new music from Ashton at all. It isn’t clear whether plans to release a full album this summer are still on track, but this collection will fill the gap nicely in the meantime.

Grade: A

Look It Up can be downloaded from Amazon and iTunes.

3 responses to “Album Review: Ashton Shepherd – ‘Look It Up (EP)’

  1. Ben Foster March 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

    A ballad definitely would have been a welcome addition. It would have added some extra variation. I kind of liked the song “Look It Up” when it first came out, but it didn’t wear on me very well. Between the lyrics and the vocal, I just find everything about it rather uninteresting.

    “Beer On a Boat” was really the only track on this EP that I liked. As far a summmer songs go, it’s a pretty good one. I’d take it over Brad’s “Water” any day. In general, the rest of the disc just seemed too cliched and formulaic to me. I was surprised and a bit disappointed because, despite the first single, I came into this fully expecting to like what I heard.

  2. Tom March 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    …to call 4 songs extend play is setting a new standard for euphemisms of the dumber kind. however, in the days of twangless country music one cannot be too fussy, when you get a collection, albeit a minimal one, from someone, who refuses to sing faux-pop for country charts purposes only.

    don’t bobbie cryner that ashton shepherd, my friends in nashville.

  3. Pingback: Album Review: Ashton Shepherd – ‘Where Country Grows’ « My Kind Of Country

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