There’s something to be said about being BLOWN AWAY. I’ve always thought the phrase implied more of a ‘game-changer’ – that things were definitely going to be much different after THIS happened – and, maybe kinda sorta that’s what I found missing from Carrie Underwood’s latest release. Nothing “blew me away,” per se … but, in total honestly, she did everything I’ve come to expect from her, and that’s a good thing … maybe even a grand thing! She continues to produce likeable country set to likeable musical performances along with her immediately recognizable big pipes. In short, Ms. Underwood can sing, and there’s nothing wrong with being BLOWN AWAY by a girl who clearly knows how to belt one out with the best of ‘em. If anything, she can leave those BLOWN AWAY sentiments behind, continue to produce albums like this, and she’ll have a long career. Everything here is ‘bankable’ with only a few surprises … so maybe while I wasn’t blown away, I was still impressed with what she does to a song.
That said, there are a few variations on her theme here, and I’ll give you a few heads-up with a rundown on the tracks:
Good Girl (4 out of 5): This is what Carrie’s career has turned to as a reliable staple – a driving pop rock rhythm laced with winning vocals – but ‘Good Girl’ falls a bit short of the big sound by the refrain that softens up more than needed in the vocal department. It’s still a quality listen once it meets the bridge thru its conclusion; maybe it’s all just a bit too predictable alongside some of her earlier work, like ‘Cowboy Casanova.’
Blown Away (3.5 out of 5): What is this? Enya’s back-up band in the opening and scattered throughout the track? “There’s not enough wind and alcohol to wash the wins out of that house …” It’s a musical request to annihilate everything that’s been bad in an unlucky girl’s life. The lyrics are respectfully reminiscent of Martina McBride’s best, but it’s given a country/pop makeover for the sake of Carrie’s vocals. A big sound a bit different than what’s come before, and it earns points for being something unique.
Two Black Cadillacs (5 out of 5): Unfortunately, it suffers a bit from placing on the disc – it’s beat and undercurrent sounds eerily similar to “Blown Away” – but it’s vastly more interesting musically lyrically so far as this listener’s concerned. Country loves to visit its tragedies in song-form, and that’s what’s at the center of the track. It’s a metaphor about two forces in nature coming together and being forever changed by the consequences of that meeting. “The preacher said he was a good man, his brother said he was a good friend …”
See You Again (4 out of 5): It’s an obligatory track about finding what’s been lost once again in one’s life and one’s heart. “I’ll see you again … this is not where it ends … I will carry you with me until I see you again …” There’s nothing wrong at all in exploring themes that have been explored before so long as something new comes to the examination, and Carrie does the best she can with the material. It’s far more interesting musically than it is lyrically (all a bit predictable), but she gives it life balancing the softer moments with the bigger ones.
Do You Think About Me (5 out of 5): Nice guitar work set against some quieter vocals than we’ve heard from Carrie in some time. There’s some wonderful harmonizing here. “I’m not even trying, but I can’t stop smiling, do you think about me like I think about me?” Country takes a lot of wallops from critics, but it’s these softer songs clearly crafted on the back of strong, solid lyrics and the sound of the instruments playing that distinguish the genre from others. Just a hint of bluegrass in a laidback romantic track is exactly what the doctor ordered today.
Forever Changed (5 out of 5): Excellent piano work opens the track about true love becoming true in only the way it does in the life shared between a man and a woman, as well as between a woman and her child, and even between a woman being herself. What’s lyrically interesting about it is that it underscores how wonderfully and magically our lives are constantly put through moments that change how we see ourselves and those around us for the better, even despite the pain and natural heartache that comes with growing older. It’s probably one of the best tracks here.
Nobody Ever Told You (4.5 out of 5): “Shine like a diamond, glitter like gold …” Life is a mystery, and you never know what’s coming ahead; but there’s no reason to get all ‘hung up on the negative.’ Embrace the bad with the good ‘cause it’s gonna be there whether you like it or not. It’s a pleasant enough diversion backed with a solid vocal performance – and another hint of bluegrass – that we don’t hear all that often these days from Carrie. Also, there are some violins / fiddles that perform wonderfully.
One Way Ticket (5 out of 5): Reggae-sounding track about considering a different solution than you’ve considered before: have fun, ‘cause we all have a ‘one way ticket’ when it’s all said and done. Go where the pink umbrellas come with the drinks. “Raise your hands in the air tonight, put a little love back in your life, get your feet up, and just kick it …” This is probably the most easily sing-along track on the whole album. Pure musical fun!
Thank God for Hometowns (2.5 out of 5): A smaller, meditative sound about respect from where you’ve come from and how things are done much differently in a small town versus the big city. It’s a topic country performers know all too well, and, if anything, that’s the shortcoming here: it gets done to death – even Carrie’s done it better elsewhere.
Good in Goodbye (3 out of 5): “Some days you’ll see the reason why, sometimes there’s good in goodbye.” No one understands a heartache when you’re in the heat of the moment, but, as time passes, you learn maybe it was all for the best after all. That’s the message at the center of the track. Again, nothing all that special, nothing all that grand. Another obligatory track with mostly obligatory lyrics and music.
Leave Love Alone (5 out of 5): Hillbillyish sounding rocker with some stunningly winning, sexy, sultry vocals performed only the way a winning, sexy, and sultry country girl can, and Carrie delivers. “I just can’t leave love alone.” Again, and again, and again. “Burn me once but it don’t sink in …. I just keep coming back again …” THIS is what she does so well, and it should find great success if her past is prelude.
Cupid’s Got A Shotgun (4 out of 5): “He gave up on arrows a long, long time ago …” Clever, upbeat, fast-paced country rock’n’roll celebrating love that comes from cupid’s arrow … erm, shotgun, that is. Excellent musical performance with almost Gospel vocals.
Wine After Whiskey (3.5 out of 5): It’s another musical metaphor about finding the silver lining in every cloud. It’s steeped in a very traditional ‘big vocal’ performance – twangy guitars and heartaches – and it works well enough for what it is: a pop standard crafted around very specific sentiments. Not all that bad, not all that grand, just a bit too predictable for my tastes.
Who Are You (2.5 out of 5): Rising vocals built around a message of love. Again, it all sounds well and good; there’s just nothing all that fresh and different about it. It may find life as a wedding song as it’s specifically crafted around a woman asking who this man is before her, and, on that point, there’s nothing wrong with it.
Plenty of hits, and not very many misses, is precisely what makes Carrie a musical force to be reckoned with on the country and pop-crossover scene, and BLOWN AWAY is – for good or bad – not a lot different than what’s come before. Again, this is not to say – or even imply – that it isn’t a worthy disc: rather, there are some excellent cuts here that’ll clearly shake audiences on the radio and at concerts. It’s a reliable performance built on a recognizable brand. If you’re looking for the next Carrie Underwood album, it’s here, fans. Rejoice!