Tuesday, March 22, 2011

EP Review: Ashton Shepherd - Look It Up

Despite the rather bland first single "Look It Up," I actually had somewhat high hopes for Ashton Shepherd's new EP, as well as for her upcoming second album Where Country Grows.  Ashton is definitely a talented vocalist with a knack for delivering emotive and expressive vocal performances accented by her down-home Alabama twang.  In addition, her traditional-leaning country style has made her a welcome radio presence to devotees of traditional country music.  But while this new EP Look It Up does showcase a few glimmers of the Ashton Shepherd we know and love, it is weighed down by one gigantic problem - too many cliches!

The title track and current Top 30 hit "Look It Up" finds Ashton dwelling on well-worn phrasing related to the subject of infidelity, and delivering it the form of rather tedious dictionary definitions.  "Where Country Grows" contains a small amount of rather appealing imagery of Southern country life, but we have to swallow a good-sized pile of lyrical formulas (church, Mama, soldiers, etc) along with it. 

"Beer On a Boat" is a lighthearted summer tune that I would fully expect to see single release come the warmer months.  It has a fairly simple lyric about (surprise!) drinking beer on a boat, but with a fun melody and fiddle-laced production, it does what it does well.  The EP closes with the typical small-town ditty "More Cows Than People."  It has a clever title hook, but that hook is the only clever thing about it.  It spends most of the time on safe and predictable images of churches and tractors.

Though Ashton's delivery of "Look It Up" begs for an extra dose of spunk, the EP as a whole finds her in fine voice.  The problem is that she simply needs better songs.  Each song on Look It Up sounds carefully tailored to fit in with a common country radio stereotype, making it seem like a pandering effort.  The EP as a whole finds a promising artist singing songs that are beneath her talent, which adds up to an awfully disappointing preview of the upcoming album.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)