Since Country Universe launched eleven years ago, there have only been a handful of new country artists that I’ve truly enjoyed. Out of all of them, there hasn’t been another artist I’ve consistently enjoyed as much as Carrie Underwood.
It’s been 10 years this month since Carrie Underwood released “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” a song that would define her early on as a wholesome, powerhouse vocalist with mass appeal. It was a fitting label at the time, but it fell short of what I knew her to be: a deeply emotive artist who understood humanity.
Throughout 2015, there have been rumblings of a backlash against the prevailing trends at country radio, and that backlash is certainly reflected in the year’s crop of CMA nominees.
We can thank the shortsighted radio consultant Keith Hill for one thing: drawing attention to the women of country music in a year where so many of them are making outstanding music. As their mainstream counterparts cycle through a series of one-note styles and themes, female country artists are putting out diverse and decidedly more progressive music, even as they draw influence from previous generations. That they do so while supporting each other makes it all the more impressive.
“Smoke Break” is a remarkably good attempt at a working class anthem. It’s so stylistically different from the “rah rah, let’s party this weekend” approach that has made drinking synonymous with adolescent behavior in modern country music.
I’ve been at this whole Country Universe thing for eleven years now, and one of the early highlights of my time doing this was the arrival of Carrie Underwood. She was so, so good on American Idol, but it didn’t quite prepare me for how much I would love hearing her do original material.