Where Country Grows by Ashton Shepherd

Ashton Shepherd returns with her much-anticipated sophomore album, and it’s obvious the Alabama native’s songwriting gift has matured. With the success of other tough country women such as Miranda Lambert and Sunny Sweeney, the timing is right, and Ashton’s songs deftly blend the spunk and vulnerability heard from the likes of Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette.

In contrast to her debut, she includes several up-tempo numbers, such as the small-town nod “More Cows Than People” and the sassy “Look It Up.” While country radio typically reserves the topics of tubing, boating and, yes, drinking beer for her male counterparts, Ashton dares to pop the top on the summertime tune “Beer on a Boat.”

Ashton, who penned nearly her entire debut album solo, brought in co-writers Bobby Pinson, Dale Dodson and Troy Jones for this project, yet the songs retain her personality. Ashton grows introspective on the gems “While It Ain’t Rainin’” and “Rory’s Radio,” while the timeless feel of “I’m Just a Woman,” a ballad that finds Ashton pleading for understanding from a man, recalls the Tammy Wynette classic “Stand By Your Man.” Ashton’s twangy songs are fearless, introspective and unabashedly country, which just might peg her as a new Loretta Lynn.

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