Storyteller

First and foremost, Carrie Underwood’s newest album Storyteller just came out on Friday and I think it’s my favorite album of hers yet. It’s a completely different side to Carrie that I haven’t seen yet, so I just want to talk about the album in a kind of review. But to stick with the theme, I want to tell my own little story at the end that you might be interested in hearing. I think I’m going to have a lovely scar on my right bicep. Does that get your attention? Alright, so stay tuned.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a die hard Carrie Underwood fan. I get giddy every time she releases new music and I love to sing her praises because she’s just the literal best singer I’ve ever heard. But like I mentioned up there, this album is something special. Every album I think is special and different than the one before it, but as more and more albums come out it gets harder to keep diversifying your sound, but after five albums and a greatest hits album, she’s still managing to change and grow as an artist. Her first album Some Hearts is a landmark album in country music, Carnival Ride definitely softened her appearance a little bit and made her more “family friendly” (not that she wasn’t before) and though it was a great album, I wouldn’t call it a game changer. The same goes for Play On where she had some really great songs and an overall pretty good album, but it gets lost in the mix between her other albums. It also changed her sound to be a little edgier with some exceptions like “Temporary Home.” Then Blown Away hit the shelves and was really different for Carrie. Immediately it became apparent this album was a new sound for her. It got darker tonally, and it stretched out into really diverse sound. Some were rock, some pop, some country, and even an island reggae-esque song. That was a wonderful album, but this one tops them all I think. Carrie described the album perfectly in the name of the album: Storyteller. One thing I’ve heard that makes country music country music is it tells a story, be it about a truck, drinking on the weekend, or scorning an ex-lover. This album really echoes this idea because every song has a story in it. I’ve always thought Carrie was pretty good at producing music with stories in them like “All-American Girl” or “Jesus Take the Wheel” or even “Last Name,” though the list could go on. But I’ve never heard an album of it, which really sets this album apart from not only her albums, but from modern country music. Many songs on country radio currently are about drinking and partying without much story, which I think sets Carrie in an interesting spot. It could either destroy her sales because the popular norm is against her, but it might be refreshing to country audiences and boost her sales. Either way, this is a standout album in Carrie’s career and in country music I think.

And how about the songs? Well after Blown Away, this album is swinging in like a 180. Where Blown Away kind of branched out, Storyteller largely returns to country music, but a new kind. There are really two different tones on this album that are easily identified with the songs in the categories being more niche. But the album is heavily country-rock and country. Essentially, every one of her songs is either rocking out or really soft while maintaining diverse sounds. I’m not sure how to describe it, but the rock songs are tonally different from past rock songs like “Last Name” or “Cowboy Casanova” or “Before He Cheats.” They highlight many different instruments and vocal styles and rhythms which isn’t something Carrie has done quite like this. Meanwhile the softer songs on the album reveal a side to Carrie that’s unlike any of her previous soft songs like “Temporary Home” or “So Small.” They feel more intimate and more vocally diverse which is kind of hard to describe, but I think if I chose one soft song from every album up to this one, you’d see a marked difference in the sound. The other side to Carrie that she’s been playing to recently is ballad type music. Carrie has a huge vocal range and is a very powerful vocalist which she displays frequently. Many of her songs play to that feature and have notes that are meant to be belted, which she nails. But this album doesn’t do that as much. In light of powerful vocal songs like “Little Toy Guns,” “Something in the Water,” and “Blown Away,” most songs don’t have that same belt-ability. It substitutes that for more intimate and soft vocals on the soft songs and more “riffs” on the rocking songs. A criticism I’ve hear of Carrie’s voice is that she is only a belter and she shouts too much; she can’t do the soft and sweet and beautiful songs. But this album just shoves that comment up the rear. Even with a powerful voice, she can be very delicate and intimate and almost fragile. Let’s use this analogy: a bodybuilder. Most people look at bodybuilders and say they’re just strong, but they can’t be very flexible or mobile or soft. Other people, say dancers, have less strength in place of finesse, grace, style, and flexibility. But Carrie’s voice is both capable of the strong notes to be belted and the delicate, demure songs. I guess you could say Carrie’s voice is kind of like a male gymnast: insanely buff and strong while still being insanely flexible and delicate. Throw into the mix that 6 of the songs on the album are co-written by Carrie and this album feels a lot more personal. They’re not just any old stories, they’re at least partially Carrie’s stories.

Overall, this is a milestone in Carrie’s career. Regardless of how the album performs, this is one of the albums that will be remembered, I’m sure. I’ve already talked enough about the album so I won’t talk about each song individually, but I will say this: it’s rare to enjoy every song on an album, but I’m in love with every song on this album. They’re all magnificent. I give this album five stars and highly recommend you buy it or at least listen to it on YouTube. Carrie released audio versions of every song on her YouTube channel so you can listen to the full album for free if you want. I know I recommend everything Carrie does, but if I were to suggest one album to you, it would be this one. Oh and by the way, Adele’s new song “Hello” came out on Friday and I’m equally in love with that song. Behind Carrie and Taylor, Adele is tied with Shania Twain for my top singers. I’m ecstatic for 25 to drop in November.

Now for my story! Thanks for hanging with me until now. So I believe it was last Tuesday that a group of us from the dorms were outside throwing a Frisbee around. Well one of us had some keys on a lanyard that were way too fun to fling around, so we were hurling the keys around. One dude got a hold of the keys and accidentally hurled them backwards, but also really high. We couldn’t find them until we looked up, where we found them wrapped around a tree branch about forty feet in the air. So said person started hurling the Frisbee at them with no avail. We went inside and left them there for another time. Flash forward to Thursday and we’re once again outside trying to get the keys down, this time with a volleyball. After probably ten minutes of hurling the volleyball at it, one guy decides he’ll climb the tree to get the keys down, but he has to change his shoes to climb it better. While he was inside, the guy throwing the volleyball got the volleyball stuck in the tree. Me being the ever curious person I am was looking for ways to climb the tree because there aren’t any low branches to get started on. So the volleyball thrower then offers me a boost up to the fork in the tree and before I know it I’m the one climbing the tree. I climbed up to the volleyball pretty easily because it was a lot lower than the keys. All I had to do was shake the branch (admittedly it was a pretty thick one, but still) to get it down. But since I was already about twenty feet up at that point I just decided to keep going. It got a lot harder as the branches got thinner and finding footholds was very difficult. Finally though I got up to a stable place 40 feet up at the base of the branch the keys were on. From that vantage point, I could tell that throwing things at them weren’t going to help at all. Then I had a few options. I could try to break off the branch, I could crawl out onto the branch, or I could figure something else out. Climbing out was beyond risky since it was so far out and it got really thin. I couldn’t break the branch off because it was too thick, so I broke off another really long branch and untied the keys from maybe seven feet away with a tree branch. I can only imagine what it looked like to people walking by or watching from the ground or even from the windows. This random dude is forty feet up a tree holding a big stick poking at another branch… Yup, but it worked. I got the keys unwrapped and I accidentally dropped them onto another branch, but I got those back easily. Then I just brought them back to me and hurled them so the people on the ground could get them.

But that left me in a tricky position. I was forty feet up and I had to get down. The tree was pretty sparse with footholds and handholds to begin with, but climbing up I’d broken many of them just to get up which left me with even fewer options getting down. It was difficult, but I eventually came to a spot where there were no more footholds in reach, so I had to lower myself down in the “dip” style from the gym. In other words, I had to grab onto two handholds and lower my feet to a lower branch. This is where I ran into the biggest complication. I’d lowered myself onto another short but stiff branch that stuck right into my right armpit. I’d already started going down so I couldn’t really get back up since my feet were in the air and I couldn’t use my other hand to get it out because I needed it to hold me up and stop me from falling fifteen feet through branches and possibly seriously injuring myself. So I just kept going. The branch scratched my arm all the way down until I felt my feet touch the next branch and I got the hell outta there. I knew it would be bleeding based on the pain so I finished climbing down and I fell out about five feet from the ground into the arms of the person who was hurling the volleyball. I looked at my arm and I had a nice sized gash on my arm that was in fact bleeding. We went inside and I got it cleaned up and volleyball guy cleaned it up and patched it up, but that’s the whole story really. I’m hoping this leaves a nice scar cause I happen to love scars and it’s a pretty good story I think. It’s like a trophy for climbing a really difficult tree and getting the keys down. I’m proud of it because I’ve never climbed a tree that successfully and it’s not a common situation getting keys out of a tree, so it’s pretty unique.

Anyway, that went way longer than I thought it would but I’m done now. Thanks for reading, hope you liked it. Don’t forget to give Storyteller a listen. Here’s a few pics of my experience too. I have a video, but apparently I can’t put it up here so… sorry.

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