Carrie Underwood - Storyteller [2LP] (gatefold)
Carrie Underwood Storyteller on 2LP
Music is at its most powerful when it tells a story. Few things are more potent than a song that washes over the listener, each cinematic line surging with emotion and taking the audience on an unexpected journey. In the past decade, Carrie Underwood has emerged as one of the most compelling storytellers of her generation. Beyond the range and timbre of her impressive pipes, Underwood knows how to weave and deliver a delicious tale. Aptly titled Storyteller, Underwood's fifth studio album is filled with intriguing characters and fascinating ruminations on life, death, love, and heartbreak.
"I feel like one of the things that sets country music apart from other types of music is the storytelling aspect," the seven-time Grammy winner says. "I want three-and-a-half-minute movies on the radio. I love that there's a beginning, middle, and an end, and it all makes sense. You can follow the characters, and you can see it all playing out in your head. That's what I'm drawn to, so that's what I write, what I pick, and what I want to sing. All the songs on the album either are very character-driven mini-movies or they're my own personal stories. Hopefully, both are entertaining and relatable."
The Checotah, Oklahoma native's four previous studio albums – Some Hearts, Carnival Ride, Play On, and Blown Away – have each been certified Platinum or multi-Platinum, and all have been named Country Album of the Year at the American Music Awards. In 2014, Underwood released her first hits collection, Greatest Hits: Decade #1. Storyteller has already continued that momentum with the record-breaking success of the hit first single, "Smoke Break." From the small-town working mom and big-city ladder-climbing man she sings about in "Smoke Break" to the unsavory Bonnie and Clyde type couple in "Choctaw County Affair" and the spousal abuse survivor in "Church Bells," Storyteller is populated with complex characters.
Underwood describes the woman in "Church Bells" as "Fancy's little sister," referencing Reba's iconic hit while the woman in the album's picturesque opener, "Renegade Runaway," owes a lot to the women of the West. Though the characters Underwood and her co-writers created drive a lot of action on Storyteller, the most poignant songs are those snapshots of her own life, including the tender ballad "Heartbeat" and the very personal "The Girl You Think I Am." However, the song that reflects the biggest change in Underwood's life in 2015 is the closing track, "What I Never Knew I Always Wanted," a celebration of marriage and motherhood that explores her feelings about her husband and their son Isaiah.
In crafting her new album, Underwood worked for the first time with producers Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church) and Zach Crowell (Sam Hunt, Keith Urban), as well as her longtime producer Mark Bright. "I want to grow, and I want to change, and I want my music to reflect that, and I felt like I just needed things to switch up a little bit in order to achieve that.
In an already distinguished career, Storyteller feels like a landmark album. It's a milestone felt by its creator. "The Storyteller album marks the beginning of a new chapter in every way in my life and my career," Underwood says. "Musically, I feel like I'm stronger than I've ever been. I feel like I'm more confident in myself as an entertainer, as a songwriter, as a singer. I've definitely evolved, and it's all been very organic. The album has some songs that are a little more gritty and edgy, and others that have an R&B feel to them. Then there are these other songs that are just twangy. We brought in a lot of different elements in a way that makes the album feel fresh and new. I hope people just call it good music."