Carrie Underwood has chosen a new path with multiple producers on Storyteller. Longtime collaborator Mark Bright is still around to handle five of the album’s tracks (including the final 4 tracks) while Jay Joyce (Little Big Town, Eric Church) handles six of the album’s tracks. Songwriter/producer Zach Crowell (Sam Hunt) produced the two other tracks. What this new blend of producers does is gives Carrie Underwood an edgier sound on Storyteller than perhaps we’re used to hearing from her. The new collaborations also serve to allow Carrie Underwood to grow into her artistry now that she’s entering the second decade of her career and has the perspective that only a veteran artist, wife and mother can provide.
There’s confidence throughout Storyteller and nuanced vocals here and there. “Church Bells” is a cousin to “Two Black Cadillacs” while “Dirty Laundry” is a distant cousin to “Before He Cheats.” The lyrics of “Dirty Laudry” are about how she’s gonna air all of his issues he’s trying to hide. It’s nuanced storytelling and may be one of the best vocals Carrie Underwood has ever put to record. There’s an interesting roadhouse feel to “Choctaw County Affair” (complete with roadhouse harmonica via Travis Meadows) is ready to become a huge hit with it’s familiar melody (think Jim Croce) and storytelling. "Smoke Break" is a song about wanting to take a time out from the rat race to take a moment to breathe while "Mexico" is a barn-burnin' rocker.
“Chaser” has a percussive, mid tempo vibe while “Relapse” features some interesting melodies with a powerful build into power ballad mode that feels like classic Carrie Underwood while “Heartbeat” (which features harmony vocals from Sam Hunt) is another radio-ready tune that showcases how well Carrie’s voice blends with Sam Hunt’s. It’s an elegant, romantic ballad. Speaking of ballads, “The Girl You Think I Am” and closer “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted” are amongst the best ballads Carrie has ever recorded and both are deeply rooted in her personal life with the former being a song for her dad while the latter is about her life as a mother and wife.
Storyteller is just about everything Carrie Underwood fans could’ve possibly hoped for. There’s not a bad or misplaced track on the entire record and the lyrics are often sincere and have depth to them not always present on the country charts these days. Carrie Underwood continues to deliver stellar recordings and Storyteller ranks among her best.
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