A little bit of extra time makes a huge difference with Carrie Underwood's fourth album, “Blown Away,” which mostly lives up to its bombastic title.
When it drops Tuesday, the 14-track collection will follow the Checotah native's last album, 2009's platinum-seller “Play On,” by 30 months, stretching her previous every-two-years release schedule by just six months.
But the country music superstar clearly put those additional months to good use: Over the past seven years, Underwood's devotees have watched the 2005 “American Idol” victor grow up, but never has her progress as a singer, songwriter and artist been as striking as on “Blown Away.”
Underwood, 29, already has another top 10 single to her name with the album's rollicking first single and opening track “Good Girl.”
Despite its bouncy hand-claps, full-on rock guitars and the five-time Grammy winner's go-for-broke belting, the infectiously feisty pop cautionary tale might give fans pause, since it bears no small resemblance to her “Play On” launcher “Cowboy Casanova.”
But “Blown Away” whips in a sharply different and unprecedently dark direction for Underwood with the title track, a vivid story song about an abused girl who leaves her drunken daddy to the swirling winds of fate during an Oklahoma twister.
The singer sticks with the revenge theme and delivers another haunting vocal performance on “Two Black Cadillacs,” a spine-tickling tale about the wife and mistress of a supposedly good man meeting face to face for the first time at his funeral.
The album sweeps Underwood back onto more familiar territory with “See You Again,” an uplifting pop ballad about reuniting with a lost loved one, and the sweet, down-home ode to first love “Do You Think About Me.”
They are among the eight tracks on “Blown Away” that she co-wrote.
A bittersweet air drifts through “Good in Goodbye,” which she penned with frequent collaborator Hillary Lindsey and Grammy-winning Tulsa native Ryan Tedder, and the album catches a raucously fun vibe with the good-natured romp “Cupid's Got a Shotgun,” which she wrote with Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins and turned into the latest surefire-hit collaboration with her superstar pal Brad Paisley, who contributes his trademark scorching electric guitar licks.
For Underwood's legions of faithful followers, the eclectic and ambitious “Blown Away” will prove worth the wait.
— Brandy McDonnell