Though it might be a cliché to describe an artist as needing no introduction, Carrie Underwood is truly one of the few musicians whose work speaks for itself. She has risen above her reality television origins, avoiding the pitfalls so many have themselves in, and has stepped into the limelight as a fully formed artist capable of some very striking and emotive work.
Her new album Storyteller is aptly titled. Though her voice is technically precise, it has always been her ability to spin narratives that has marked her out for special attention. She fully inhabits her characters, speaking with a voice of barely controlled emotion of the tender Heartbeat and then, on the other end of the spectrum, with bravery and beauty on Choctaw County Affair.
Though each voice is different, and each song bursts with uniqueness and life, there’s nothing artificial about the piece: one never gets the sense that Underwood is simply trying on roles. By the time a song like Clock Don’t Stop or Mexico has rolled around, the sense of honesty and rawness emanating from the work has become impossible to ignore.
Things do unravel here and there though, it must be said, and at times the overly polished choruses feel very reminiscent of Underwood’s work on American Idol. There is a vague sense of commercialism to some of the numbers, chiefly Smoke Break and Dirty Laundry, which veer slightly to close to the reductive.
But ultimately, such qualms are minor. All said, Storyteller is powerful stuff; pop country that somehow feels fresh and inspired, rather than derivative and tired. Indeed, it might well be one of the finest records Underwood has yet turned out: a seismic force of an album that becomes increasingly powerful with every single listen.