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http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/65ea6a984a606a0e24970c03ce0c102e8b0f74a3.jpg Where Country Grows

Ashton Shepherd

Where Country Grows

MCA Nashville
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
July 12, 2011

Ashton Shepherd is 24 years old, but she doesn't sing like it. She has one of those lived-in country voices: hard and bright, weary but hopeful, perfect for her wise, witty, tough-minded songs. Her debut, Sounds So Good, was one of the best country releases of 2008. Where Country Grows is even better - full of kiss-offs ("Look It Up"), celebrations of the sticks ("More Cows Than People") and backwoods-diva ballads like "I'm Just a Woman." She can be as rugged as Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson, and sings better than each. In "I'm Good," she belts, "I'm gettin' better at being my best." That's an understatement.

 Listen to "Look It Up":

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    Song Stories

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    A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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