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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