Carrie Underwood, "Blown Away" (19/Arista)
The cover of Carrie Underwood's fourth album illustrates her evolution since introducing herself as a young Oklahoma woman with a powerful voice.
Initially, she came across as the friendly girl next door, with songs about Jesus and of compassion for the less fortunate, while showing her wit with empowering songs about getting back at a cheating guy.
The cover of "Blown Away" depicts the modern Underwood as an airbrushed, supermodel heroine, right leg thrust out forward from a glamorous gown like Angelina Jolie at the Academy Awards. Her opening hit, "Good Girl" — slamming along to a sneering rock arrangement — chastises a naive girl for not realizing she's being fooled by a conniving lover. The title song tells of an abused daughter hoping a tornado destroys her house — and her father with it. Another, "Two Black Cadillacs," describes how a wife and a mistress silently share a deadly secret at the funeral of their two-faced man.
Those songs, delivered forcefully with cool distance rather than heated passion, set the tone for "Blown Away." Gone is the shy, small-town girl who won the fourth season of "American Idol." Unlike her peers Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift, Underwood hasn't opened herself to fans through songs that reveal her personality; instead, she's charged forward with a take-no-prisoners attitude that's more about brassy, modern entertainment than connecting with fans on an intimate level.
One of the album's gentler songs, "Nobody Ever Told You," sweetly advises a woman she's a jewel without all the glitz and vanity she hides behind. Underwood co-wrote the song — and would benefit from taking her song's advice.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On "Wine After Whiskey," Underwood proves once again how powerful and emotional she sounds when singing a traditional country song.