Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Carrie Underwood is finally on our store shelves with a full album.

American Idol fans will remember her from the past season as the shy, lovable country girl from Oklahoma who was, by and large, everybody's favorite to win the whole way through. I have to admit to being a Carrie fan from day one. As I watched her in her opening audition, I said to myself and those who were watching with me, "She's the one. She's going all the way." She didn't disappoint, to say the least.

So now the big question is this: will her album be as good as she appeared to be on Idol? To be honest, not all of the initial albums released by Idol winners were good. Kelly Clarkson's Thankful was a good effort, but was all over the place stylistically, as though they were looking for a niche to put her in. They fixed this with her incredible follow-up album, Breakaway, firmly entrenching her in the chick-rock genre. Ruben Studdard's first release, Soulful, a pseudo pop/R&B mish-mash, was only so-so, and it's lack of substance was a big part of what caused it to be completely buried by Clay Aiken's runway smash Measure of a Man. Fantasia's first R&B album was probably the only real show-stopper of them all. So, that all being precedent, how impressive can we expect Carrie's album to be?

Actually, it's pretty darned good! (And if you don't want to take my word for it hop over to her official site to sample some of the tracks.)

The country genre is nothing new to former Idols. Josh Gracin has been burning up the country charts for a year or two now. But it's a nice detour from the usual, and Carrie Underwood is rather uniquely fitted for the job. Some Hearts delivers a nice melodic blend of modern country, ranging a bit into the pop side, but occasionally dipping into the twang and steel guitars.

It would appear that a huge team was put to work to really flesh out this album. Producer Dann Huff had a lot of great material to work with.

Song-writing mega-superstar Diane Warren penned no less than 3 of the songs on this album. Her list of accomplishments are too numerous to list here (you can check out her site at www.realsongs.com for a comprehensive listing), but she has written smash hits for Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Aretha Franklin, Heart, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey...etc. It seems like whenever Diane Warren touches paper, it turns to gold. There are a lot of artists whom you might never have even heard of had it not been for them singing one of her songs (think Milli Vanilli's "Blame It On the Rain.")

Some of country music's hottest songwriters are on here. There's Brett James, Troy Verges, and Hillary Lindsey to name a few. Hillary contributed three songs to the album and appears twice on the disc singing back-up. Fans of country music may remember her from Martina McBride's video "This One's for the Girls." (She also wrote the song.) She's also been part of the creative team that powered Faith Hill's Cry to the top of the charts. I'm as much a fan of hers as I am of Carrie Underwood, but that may be a bias since we both attended the same high school. I clearly remember losing to Hillary in a community talent show, though in my defense, I was doing comedy and she sings better than me. I remember we were paired together in a class once and our assignment was to write a song. I wrote some crappy lyrics, she wrote the music and sang it, and I knew right then and there the girl would go far. But I digress...

Finally, there's Carrie herself, and she plays the most amazing instrument on the whole album: her voice. All of the rest of the work on this album are nice parts of the car, but her vocals are the engine that sends this vehicle zooming off down the road. Whether she's soulfully belting out "Jesus Take the Wheel" or seducing us with "We're Young and Beautiful," she has the pipes and the God-given sense of how to use them. I found myself mesmerized by "Some Hearts" and "That's Where It Is." And the CD rounds up with a song she penned herself, "I Ain't in Checotah Anymore," which turned out better than expected. Her voice is commanding and strong. There are no Britney Spears' half-whispered half-sung songs here. (And nobody pronounces "me" as "may.") She's got a sound as sweet as honey and it lulls the listener into a peaceful state while hammering home conscious lyrics and heartfelt emotions.

In summary, this CD is a very solid country album. It's nothing incredibly ground-breaking, but it's thoughtful, insightful, soulful, and pretty! Those of you who are long-time Carrie fans probably have it already, but if you don't, it's worth a buy.


At 11:55 PM, Blogger macattack said...

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