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Some Solid Enjoyable Moments; 3 1/2 stars,
This review is from: Blown Away (Audio CD)
Carrie Underwood releases her fourth studio effort on the support of first single "Good Girl," which much like Play On lead single balances country and pop. Similarly, Blown Away balances country and pop among other genre influences throughout it duration. For the most part, Blown Away is a sound effort with abundant enjoyable moments. There are cuts that are flawed and lack the focus and precision of the best cuts, much like many albums these days. A testament to the album itself is the fact that first single "Good Girl" is not its very strongest cut - there are other standouts alongside that one.
"Good Girl" opens the effort with a nice driving groove and fierce sounding electric guitars. Carrie sounds incredibly commanding, aided by clear vocal production. The song is `country' by name mostly, as there is inherent pop sensibilities written all over this cut. If "Good Girl" does anything for Underwood, it certainly sheds her `American Idol' image and finds her a more polished performer. "Blow Away," the infamous title track that Underwood performed on Season 11 of American Idol, is less distinct and exciting than "Good Girl." Better than her bland take of the song on the broadcast, "Blown Away" is by no means sub-par, but is lacking in character and development of the very best cuts. On a positive note, the `four-on-the-floor' pounding beat is desirable as well as vocal production and overall production.
The album's best track come through "Two Black Cadillacs," a cut that opens with mysterious production and a somewhat understated rhythmic groove. The songwriting and Carrie's vocal performance are amongst their best here. The refrain screams `country music' all over with its narrative lyrical approach: "...and the preacher said he was a good man/and his brother said he was a good friend/but the woman in the two black veils didn't bother to cry..." Add to the clever use of background vocals, and the strength of the cut is further accentuated. "See You Again" has a hard act to follow, but does sound job by contrasting the country-laden "Two Black Cadillacs" in favor of a more crossover-leaning cut. The refrain is epic and big in sound and the production top-rate intact with pedal steel, guitars, and piano. The tender bridge contrasts the somewhat predictable verses adding some variety to the cut.
"Do You Think About Me" stands out more than "See You Again," contributing a folksy-country sound. The four-on-the-floor thud definitely adds a `plus' to this cut, as does Underwood's strong vocal prowess on the refrain. If a quibble was to be issued, it would be "Do You Think About Me" is predictable. "Forever Changed" is yet another contrast, finding Underwood aiming for more `tender' approach. The results are a sound that is quite understated and lovely, though not particularly exciting. "Nobody Ever Told You" accelerates the tempo predictably, but does feature some excellent musical touches. The main rub with "Nobody..." would be that the music drags on a bit too long.
"One Way Ticket" has a lazy feel about the groove, not to mention the use of whistles throughout, which makes it sort of captivating. Overall well produced, Underwood shines, particularly on the gargantuan refrain. A bit gimmicky for the country singer, "One Way Ticket" is easily more successful than not ultimately. "Thank God For Hometowns," a `B' cut unsurprisingly slackens the tempo. It opens initially without percussive accompaniment with a groove finally entering in subtly; by the second iteration of the chorus the cut becomes more involved musically. "Good in Goodbye" is solid, though not the most exciting showing while "Leave Love Alone" feels as if it lacks `substance.' That is not to say it is `bad' or `inappropriate,' but "Leave Love Alone" feels as if it needs more lyrics or quality songwriting for whatever reason.
After a slight `fall-off,' the superb "Cupid's Got A Shotgun" resurrects any conceded momentum. The uptempo cut instantly captures one attention with its overt country sound, which fits Underwood perfectly. The instrumental jam session only adds to the authenticity placing this cut in the upper echelon. "Wine After Whiskey" is none too shabby as a penultimate cut, though not the `best of the best.' "Who Are You" features a casual, driving country sound to close out the effort.
Overall, Blown Away attempts to please both the country and pop worlds. Aside from "Good Girl," some of the best moments of Blown Away are the more overt country turns. "Two Black Cadillacs" and "Cupid's Got A Shotgun" are easily two of Underwood's best songs she's released and both are non-concessions to pop or country-pop. For the most part, Blown Away should please audiences, even when it doesn't `blow you away.'