Since rising to the top, American-Idol-turned-country star Carrie Underwood has scarcely experienced what could be called a “slide”—even though her previous release Play On had a fairly tepid reception. But listening to Blown Away, Underwood’s fourth studio release, I can’t help but feel that any doubts about her will be laid to rest. There are enough solid, singable, radio-friendly tunes on this album to keep her at or near the top of the charts for some time to come.
Underwood dropped hints that this record would be a “darker” album than her previous work—a promotional ploy that may, in retrospect, prove to be a tactical error. Indeed, Blown Away does explore some darker material (howbeit for only the first four songs or so); indeed, at times the themes border on the macabre nature of some of the old-time bluegrass standards. The title track deals the topic of child abuse, as a young girl wishes for a tornado to destroy the home where she lives with her abusive father. And in “Two Black Cadillacs,” a cheating man gets knocked off by his spurned wife and his mistress (“And the preacher said he was a good man / And his brother said he was a good friend / But the women in the two black veils didn’t bother to cry….He’s not the only one who had a secret to hide”—cleverly written).
But you know, country music only lets you go so far down the “dark” path, and the mood definitely moderates toward the middle part of the album. So I’d have a hard time classifying this record as dark—more like it just has a lot of range. Happy, sad, angry, vengeful, happy…I already said happy, didn’t I? The point is, there are feel-good moments along with the “dark” moments, and even some of the dark moments aren’t all that dark.
Beyond that—style-wise, this record ventures into genre-crossing a bit—not really drifting, but more like an artist rooted in country who occasionally explores pop (not entirely unexpected from someone who got her start on Idol). Blown Away actually contains some of the twangiest stuff Carrie Underwood has ever done, but the title track and “Two Black Cadillacs,” for example, sound a lot more like pop/rock than they do country (ironically, the two “darkest” tunes on the record). There’s even a token reggae tune on the track list, “One Way Ticket.”
But the one thing that brings all of this stuff together—happy, sad, pop, country, etc.—is Carrie Underwood’s unmatched voice. Dang, this girl can sang. I don’t think she ever hits a sour note. If she wants to sing reggae—shoot, if she wants to sing opera—then let her. I’ll buy the record.
While the whole album is good, in my opinion, the high point for me is still the opening track and first single, “Good Girl” (which I previewed here). Man, what a hook.
All told, I don’t know if Blown Away will “blow away” the fans, in that it isn’t a quantum leap or anything. But it is a solid offering from a consistently good country artist, and kudos for that. Definitely worth picking up.
ALBUM RATING: 3.5 Stars (out of five)