It has been 3 years since we last heard a studio album by Carrie Underwood. The last project, ‘Blown Away’, produced a string of hits including the #1 single ‘Good Girl’, ‘Blown Away’, ‘Two Black Cadillacs’ and ‘See You Again’. The album was a phenomenal success, not only reaching #1 in the US charts, but also reaching #11 in the UK all-genre chart – impressive to say the least for a country artist. From a personal viewpoint, it was no surprise that the album performed so well, as the choice of material was simply superb and it would easily feature in my top 10 country albums. 3 years on, Carrie has set the bar very high, and has a lot to live up to with the release of her fifth album, ‘Storyteller’.
When you consider Carrie gave birth to her first child in February, you could be forgiven for expecting a more heart-felt, reflective record with a focus on her new family life. However, ‘Storyteller’ is far from it, with Carrie sticking to her roots to produce the familiar rocking pop-country style that has brought her so much success over the years. This is evident right from the beginning of the album with ‘Renegade Runaway’, a fast paced, attention-grabbing track with a thumping drum beat which sets the tone for much of the album. This is a track which absolutely begs to be performed live. I absolutely love the fusion of Carrie’s passionate vocal with the heaviness of the melody, combining to convey the desperation and drama of the lyrics wonderfully.
A personal favourite on the album is a track reminiscent of ‘Two Black Cadillacs’ called ‘Church Bells’, a tale of a girl from a poor background who falls in love with a wealthy man, only to find out that he is not the man of her dreams and ends up being the victim of abuse (Yes, another rather depressing topic for Carrie!) and I’ll leave you to discover the ending for yourselves. I am certain this track will be released as a single, and this has the potential to be a massive hit for Carrie. Once again, this is a track which lends itself beautifully to Carrie’s live show, where the heavy bass and anthemic chorus would sound incredible.
The pace of the album is then slowed down by a track called ‘Heartbeat’, a track which Carrie describes as “my story”. Carrie’s song writing abilities are truly exposed in this track with wonderfully written lyrics such as “Tonight I wanna drive so far and only find static on the radio / We can’t see those city lights and I like the way you look in firefly glow / Saying everything without making a sound / A cricket choir in the background / Underneath the harvest moon / Standing on your shoes in my bare feet / Dancing to the rhythm of your heartbeat.” The track features fellow C2C 2016 artist Sam Hunt on backing vocals, and this is another track which I would imagine Carrie will be considering releasing as a single. Personally, as someone who tends to prefer Carrie’s slower melodies such as “Thank God For Hometowns”, “Temporary Home” and “Mama’s Song”, this song stood out for me in an album which overall leans more towards her up-tempo, pop-country style.
Carrie leaves the best till last with a track called ‘What I Never Knew I Always Wanted’, written for her husband Mike Fisher and son Isaiah. At this point in her life, Carrie explains that she never expected to have a family, and this heart-felt ballad sums this up brilliantly. She said “I have one of these on every album; a track which I won’t perform very often as it is very deep and difficult in a live setting”. For me, this track displays Carrie at her very best, with no vocal gymnastics – just a beautifully written track with a wonderful melody.
Overall, the album will split opinion. For listeners like me who tend to prefer Carrie’s music when her vocals are restrained somewhat, the temptation to expose her vocal range can sometimes become tiresome. However, this is a style which has bought Carrie an immense amount of success and I have no doubt that this album will do the same, as most of the tracks have a mainstream feel and could all potentially be singles. Although personally I don’t feel it matches the quality of her previous album, it will no doubt please the fans as she has stayed true to her pop-country roots and produced yet another solid album.
Carrie will be headlining at the Country2Country festivals across the UK in March 2016.
Twitter – @Flatthead_Dan @LifeInASong_UK