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Sunday, 20 April, 2008 11:56 AM

CMA New Artist Spotlight: Ashton Shepherd

Photo by Danny Clinch

MCA Nashville recording artist Ashton Shepherd

By Bob Doerschuk
© 2008 CMA Close Up News Service

The first single from the new album by Ashton Shepherd tells us all we need to know about the soul of this 21-year-old singer and songwriter. On "Takin' Off This Pain," her voice is tough, tender and wise beyond its years and her gift for setting the stage for a song with simple eloquence is in full view.

Producer Buddy Cannon knows how to breathe life into images of hard times and good times. Throughout Shepherd's MCA Nashville debut, Sounds So Good, on 12 tunes, eight written solely by the artist and three co-written with Adam Cunningham, Cannon swirls heartbreak fiddle, last-call steel guitar and powerfully assertive and expressive vocals into a neon-bathed tour de force.

From the twang in Shepherd's tone throughout "I Like Being Single" and the pain in her stretched-out phrasing on "Whiskey Won the Battle," you know that this Coffeeville, Ala., native has been there, done that and earned the right to write and sing about it with an almost startling conviction.

Raised in a flyspeck town of 360, Shepherd won her first talent contest at age 8, appropriately with a couple of Patsy Cline tunes. Her parents funded recording and manufacturing for 1,000 copies of her first album at 15. She won another contest at 16 that earned her an opportunity to open for Lorrie Morgan - and that in turn inspired a producer in the audience to invite her to Nashville. One connection led to another, the result being this remarkable album, rooted deep in tradition and reaching past that Alabama horizon toward an assured and enduring career.

IN HER OWN WORDS:

MUSICAL HEROES
"Keith Whitley and Dolly Parton."

SONG YOU WANT TO COVER
"'Fishin' in the Dark,' by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band."

CD ON YOUR STEREO
"Vern Gosdin."

DREAM DUET PARTNER
"Alan Jackson."

SONG YOU WISH YOU WROTE
"'He Stopped Loving Her Today.'"

SONG YOU SING IN THE SHOWER
"That's actually where I write a lot of songs."

MOMENT TO RELIVE IF YOU COULD
"Holding my son James for the first time."

WHEN THEY LOOK BACK ON YOUR LIFE IN 50 YEARS, WHAT DO YOU HOPE PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU
"I hope they say I will always be remembered by the songs I write and the music I create."

On the Web: www.ashtonshepherd.com

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