Carrie Underwood - 'Storyteller'

Storyteller is the fifth studio album from American country artist Carrie Underwood. Released on October 23, the album holds thirteen tracks with six co-written by Carrie herself.

Having never been a huge fan of Carrie's I wasn't planning on buying this album but the album's second single Heartbeat tempted me into hearing more. The track isn't perfect - for instance in my opinion a male backing vocalist with more grit in his voice than Sam Hunt would have improved the track - but the lyrics are touching and the song as a whole seems to really suit Carrie.

Two songs really stood out for me, the first has to be Like I'll Never Love You Again, written by 'Love Junkies' Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna. It often feels as though Carrie prefers to release upbeat, rockier numbers in her albums and, whilst she has a powerful vocal, the big powerful numbers can become a little boring after that being all you seem to hear. Like I'll Never Love You Again on the other hand is soft and emotive and Carrie sounds completely comfortable, proving that she can perform a vulnerable, heartfelt track better than the big powerful numbers in my opinion. The lyrics are really lovely, lines like "I wanna love you like the world's gonna stop" being complimented by the acoustic guitar and snare drum led production. The waltz timing to the melody and Hillary Lindsey's (you can't really pick out Chris DeStefano very well) brilliant backing vocals round out a really strong song, you can't help but feel drawn in by it.

The second track that stood out for me is The Girl You Think I Am. The track manages to merge the delicacy behind Like I'll Never Love You Again with the power behind tracks like Dirty Laundry and Church Bells and I imagine it is great to hear live. The track is, without a doubt, the strongest track that Carrie has had a hand in writing on the album, it feels incredibly personal to her but she still manages to make it relatable to listeners. Yet again, Hillary Lindsey delivers a very strong backing vocal, with Perry Coleman also sounding great.

There were, unfortunately, some other songs that I didn't really like. Mexico, for instance, just feels messy. It also quickly feels as though Carrie's vocal is uncomfortable, she seems to push against the track, pushing power through her vocal that makes it seem strained. The overall instrumentalisation also doesn't help this, the production is mostly very heavy - particularly in the chorus - and the lyrics do nothing to really draw you in.

Choctaw County Affair has a little bit of a strange sound generally. I quite like the overall idea behind it but it doesn't really work as well as it could, perhaps if Carrie's vocal had been reigned in a little she would have been able to give the performance more attitude and play to the blues influences behind the track. There also seems to be a separation between the vocals and production which means they don't really gel throughout the track.

Track listing...
1) Renegade Runaway - Carrie Underwood, Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey
2) Dirty Laundry - Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley, Hillary Lindsey
3) Church Bells - Zach Crowell, Brett James, Hillary Lindsey
4) Heartbeat - Carrie Underwood, Zach Crowell, Ashley Gorley
5) Smoke Break - Carrie Underwood, Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey
6) Choctaw County Affair - Jason White
7) Like I'll Never Love You Again - Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose
8) Chaser - Carrie Underwood, Mike Elizondo, Hillary Lindsey
9) Relapse - Ben Caver, Sara Haze, Brett James
10) Clock Don't Stop - Blair Daly, Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey
11) The Girl You Think I Am - Carrie Underwood, David Hodges, Hillary Lindsey
12) Mexico - Kathleen Higgins, Jamie Moore, Derrick Adam Southerland
13) What I Never Knew I Always Wanted - Carrie Underwood, Brett James, Hillary Lindsey

Overall Storyteller isn't a poor release but I'm afraid it hasn't made me a Carrie Underwood fan. I often find her vocal a little overpowering - which is why songs such as Like I'll Never Love You Again and The Girl You Think I Am really stood out for me - so I would certainly be interested to hear more tracks like that compared to the big, powerful numbers. The album as a whole has certainly been popular though and has received a considerable positive response from listeners and press alike but I'm afraid I wouldn't recommend it.

Carrie is set to headline the second day of next year's Country To Country Festival in London alongside Little Big Town, Maddie & Tae and Sam Hunt (perhaps hinting at Sam joining Carrie for Heartbeat). Carrie has always been popular with UK audiences and a lot of these songs seem as though they will go down well live, I'm sure it will be a popular night!