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Carrie Underwood

Storyteller – 2015 (19 Recordings/Arista Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood's powerful voice has been her calling card throughout her career, and that is no different on her latest. She has always possessed a voice that can be chameleon-like and work with the material at hand.

Underwood does that again on these 13 songs, 6 of which she helped pen. Underwood knows a thing or two about writing or finding material that fits her commercial orientation as almost all 13 could conceivably be picked as singles. They are big sounding, big voiced and radio ready.

Underwood is squarely on the contemporary category of what some call country. Fact is, only one song even utilizes Dobro or pedal steel ("Heartbeat"), while another contains mandolin. Look elsewhere if trying to find something even remotely on the traditional side of the genre. On the flip side, synth pad from producer Jay Joyce (he's one of three) or synth can be heard on two-thirds of the songs.

What you're left with what would pass for rock in a different era. The drums pound away on the frothy, but at times funky and soulful "Dirty Laundry." The acoustic guitar of Ilya Tolshinsky kicks of "Church Bell" and underpins the song, but, quickly, the big sounds take over. All too often, there's just too much going on ("Clock Don't Stop") in the search for perfect production.

Underwood alters course with the clean sounding, but bluesy "Choctaw County Affair," a story song about a love triangle with murder where she changes it up vocally.

And like the title says, there are a lot of stories to be told, something not all that much of the country landscape these days. Underwood paints pictures and specific references with her songs about situations that could be real.

Underwood closes the album with the most emotional and toned down song on her fifth studio release, "What I Never Knew I Always Wanted." The song, which she wrote with Brett James and Hillary Lindsey, a long-time Underwood contributor, finds Underwood singing about her husband, Mike Fisher, and new-born son, Isaiah. It's a love paean with teeth and heart as Underwood sings, "Never was the kind to think about dressing in white / Wasn't waiting on a prince to come riding into my life / Thought I was happy on my own / Till you came and proved me wrong."

"Storyteller" is meat and potatoes Carrie Underwood. Her voice remains ever intact; the songs fit her, and it's thoroughly modern.