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Farawayhills (England)

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Blown Away [UK Special Edition]
Blown Away [UK Special Edition]
Price: 7.35

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A varied, and often innovative album, 18 Jun 2012
I'm particularly impressed with the lead song Good Girl. While the lyrical theme of the voice of conscience, with the singer's wiser self warning her lovestruck alter ego of the true nature of the low life she's courting is interesting, the real strength of this song lies in the musical changes that Carrie introduces. I'm particularly impressed by the drop to the sensitive conversational parts, ending with the quietest, resigned "and go". The final third of the song is an impressive echo of Alternative Country Rock, with a Blues influenced vocal, subsiding into a surprising a capella finish. This is one of the most challenging and musically interesting songs that I've heard from Carrie - and it alone would be enough to convince me that she's serious about taking her album work to a new level.

It's followed by two "dark" revenge songs, with word pictures and story-unfolding in the "Southern Gothic" tradition. Blown Away is probably the more musically innovative, with several creative studio effects. In succession, the music suggests the anticipation of the coming storm, the sudden force of the wind, and even the suggestion in sound of the whirlwind itself at 2.35. In both these songs, as often in the Southern Gothic tradition, much is left unsaid - allowing the listener to supply the details. We are not explicitly told what sins the girl experienced in the doomed house, or much about the "secret" buried at the grave in Two Black Cadillacs. One impressive detail of the music in the latter is the Country Blues influence, both as Carrie sings the line about the preacher and the brother, and as the background voices sing "bye bye"

These three songs, for me, best fulfill the promise of a new level in the music, with Carrie going in an innovative "South of Nashville" direction that is more Progressive than we usually hear in the Mainstream. Rather surprisingly, they're followed by what I regard as the album's track which is most closely linked to her earlier career, "See You Again", one I find most reminiscent of several of her earlier "Power Pop" songs. On reflection, I felt that Carrie may have included this song at this point to reassure her audience that she was not giving up this side of her musical persona, and would relate to listeners who prefer a more General Music feel. It's well sung, with vocal variations, but I found little in the music, although like "Good Girl" it finishes with a quiet, almost a capella ending.

Songs 5 and 7 I would pair together as good material to attract, in particular, the young fans who are the most important demographic in supporting Contemporary Country artists today, and are also likely to be significant in Carrie's international push. Do You Think About Me is a fresh, enjoyable celebration of first love, with a Contemporary Country twang and a Hillary Lindsey-styled vocal. Nobody Ever Told You shares stylistic similarity, but is more seriously themed, as a confidence-builder for those who feel unsure of their appeal - a thoughtful song, that could be an anthem for the under-rated.

These songs flank what I regard as one of the album's great highlights, Forever Changed. Although very different, this song jumps out for me, with "Good Girl", as one of the two songs that give Carrie the most challenging and most successful demonstration of her vocal ingenuity. She handles this with a deceptively under-stated, but beautifully expressed sensitivity, that make it, for me, one of the emotional great songs in modern female Country Music. In my personal "play list", I'd put it on a level with Beth Nielsen Chapman's "Sand and Water" and Mindy Smith's "One Moment More" - two songs I can never hear without a lump in my throat.

On a completely different level is One Way Ticket. Normally, I tend to skip these "feel good" holiday songs as one of the more superficial trends in Mainstream Country, but this is new ground for Carrie, and I think she pulls this off with an infectious sense of fun. Although it wouldn't be a direction I'd hope her to explore often, this gives a new twist and a good counter-weight to other parts of the album. And she even includes a hint of Red Dirt "stick it to the Man" sentiment!
eThank God For Hometowns addresses another familiar Mainstream Country theme - but I found this one particularly interesting. These songs need care to avoid seeming cliched, but this one paints some word pictures worthy of the NGDB's "The Resurrection", and is sung with an authenticity reminiscent of LBT's "Boondocks".

Good in Goodbye is another interesting song - in some ways I like to see this as the aftermath of "Good Girl", several years on. Here the singer refers to the relationship she broke off with the unusually thoughtful line "thank God I didn't get what I thought I deserved" - and introduces a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel, in the resolution that both parties seem to have found a better life apart.

This is followed by a group of three strong songs, each seeming to address a different part of the Country Music community. Leave Love Alone is a personal favourite of mine, and one of the most "Rootsy" songs that Carrie has ever included. The jangly backing, the underlying stomp rhythm and the occasional whoops give this song both an Appalachian influence, and also a touch of Gordie Sampson's Nova Scotian background. Cupid's Got A Shotgun is an infectious example of Country Rock, with some great guitar work from Brad Paisley and a feisty, convincing vocal from Carrie herself. She even takes a step into Outlaw music with the song's unexpected twist - when she loads up her Remington and counter-attacks Cupid. Wine After Whiskey should appeal to Neo-traditionalists. It reminded me, thematically, of the Nanci Griffith couplet "I was frightened by the thunder of our hearts in '69. but I live my life in whispers now.". This is one of Carrie's most mature and and moving songs, and a striking (almost) close to the album.

The actual close, though, is given by Who Are You, a song which I find more interesting and memorable with each listen. Carrie, I feel, always likes to conclude her albums with a song that is different from the album as a whole, but which contains a message that she finds significant - and which is often inspirational. This is certainly different musically, but I find its message powerful and thought provoking.

In weighing up the album as a whole, I'm struck that several of the most interesting songs are among Carrie's own eight co-writes, and that Hillary Lindsey's sometimes overlapping and sometimes separate eight provide much of the balance, making it a satisfying and inspired partnership for the album songs as a whole. The other writers too, I find, seem better suited to what Carrie is trying to achieve than I sometimes felt to be the case on "Play On". This, I feel is Carrie's strongest album. While it contains enough variety to give a very broad range of tastes something to enjoy, I find a particular strength for Carrie's career goals in the fact that the seven songs that I see as the most musically complex (1,2,3 ,6, 11,12,13) are balanced by the other seven which give the album a more Mainstream feel. This allows the album to break new career ground, while still retaining the contemporary career milieu.

Play On
Play On
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: 7.28

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Latest Release from ACM Entertainer Of The Year, 24 Oct 2009
This review is from: Play On (Audio CD)
This pre-order review is based on my having heard three full songs, demo versions of two other songs, and sample clips of the other album tracks.

Carrie Underwood is the reigning Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, and the first female performer to win this title since the Dixie Chicks in 2000. She "paid her dues" by honing her skills in the traditional manner for Country performers, issuing three self-release albums and touring widely as a teenager at regional events, before breaking through to national prominence by winning the television talent show "American Idol". Since signing to a major label, this is her third album release. She has so far seen little promotion in the UK - but this seems set to change with this album, her first to get an advance release in this country.

New listeners should not expect to stereotype Carrie as a particular category of singer - this is a truly varied album in which she explores a range of styles, tempos, and subject themes. People who relate to a fine, expressive singing voice and an emotional commitment to the lyrics should sample this work, without focusing too strongly on genre labels.

"Cowboy Casanova" is a powerful Pop-Country anthem, warning girls of a shallow lover, delivered with a punchy beat, in a contemporary style that I call "progressive honky-tonk". "Mama's Song" sees the singer in sweeter, more reflective mood, telling her mother she has found the perfect lover, while "Temporary Home" is a moving, inspirational ballad, dealing with three episodes of an orphan boy, a single mother in a hostel, and a dying man - all of whom see their present situations as only temporary.

"Someday When I Stop Loving You" seems set to be the most Roots sounding track Carrie has chosen yet - an excellent song, and a real highlight. "Look At Me" is a Mainstream neo-traditional love song - also recorded recently by Alan Jackson on a movie soundtrack.

Carrie co-wrote over half these songs - and an interesting feature of this album is that she has collaborated with a very wide range of writers - both old and new, and from both the Pop and Country spheres, often inviting unexpected and unusual combinations. The result seems set to be an album which can't be simply slotted into any one category, but which aims to offer something to a wide range of musical tastes.

Heartbreaker's Hall Of Fame
Heartbreaker's Hall Of Fame
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 8.16

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Roots Country Debut, 13 Mar 2007
Sunny Sweeney is one of the most exciting new singers to emerge recently on the Roots Country scene. This is her first album - originally self-released, and co-produced by Sunny herself, with Tommy Detamore and Tom Lewis (both of whom play on the record). It attracted a lot of interest on both Americana radio and the BBC, and has now been taken up for wider release by Big Machine Records.

Sunny's voice should please fans looking for an authentic Country sound, and she brings an infectious enthusiasm to the songs, many of which pay tribute to the classic honky-tonk style that is often lost by contemporary mainstream radio acts.

Two of the songs are likely to be familiar to many Country fans - Iris Dement's "Mama's Opry" and Tom Schuyler's "16th Avenue" (best known from the version by Lacy J.Dalton). Both of these songs were written as tributes to the "spirit" of Country Music, and thus seem apt reflections of the inspiration for this album.

Another well-known name on the Americana scene - Jim Lauderdale - is well represented here. He co-wrote two of the songs: the strong opener "Refresh My Memory" and the outstanding "Please Be San Antone" (the later written with Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks, and previously included on one of Jim Lauderdale's own albums). He also makes a guest vocal appearence on this album, duetting with Sunny on another of the highlights, "Lavender Blue".

"East Texas Pines" is a hard-driving rocking number that reflects Sunny's home region, while "Here Lately", a more reflective song, with a striking musical arrangement, is about someone returning to Texas by train. Two songs that show Sunny is not afraid to include some bold choices are the very fast-paced and vocally challenging "If I Could" (sung almost like an auctioneer calling at a sale), and the ironic "Next Big Nothing" - a brave theme for a debut album!

Of particular interest are three songs Sunny wrote herself. The title track "Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame" and the school reunion song "Ten Years Pass" both show a perceptive take on different emotions, but for me one of the most striking numbers on the album is "Slow Swinging Western Tunes" - a haunting song that stayed in my mind, both musically and lyrically.

Sunny has excellent support from her backing musicians: Tommy Detamore on Dobro, guitar, lap steel & pedal steel; Bobby Flores on fiddle & mandolin; Tom Lewis on percussion; Casper Rawls on guitar; and Ted Roddy on harmonica - together with harmony vocals from Gary Wayne Claxton & D.B. Harris.

This is an album which shows a real confidence in, and commitment to, Roots Country Music, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who loves the genre.

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