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Latest Release from ACM Entertainer Of The Year,
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.