CD REVIEW 2015
POISONED CHALICE FOR WEALTHY WIFE BASHER
“Jenny slipped something in his Tennessee whiskey/ no law man was ever gonna find/ and how he died is still a mystery/ but he hit a woman for the very last time.” - Church Bells - Zach Crowell-Brett James-Hilary Lindsay.
Delivering summary justice to domestic violence perpetrators is swift and, in the voice of chart topping chanteuses, a nice little earner.
Gretchen Peters provided perfect fodder for Martina McBride when she wrote Independence Day in which the young daughter of the victim burned down the home of the villain.
The Dixie Chicks settled for poisoning the ogre's black-eyed peas in their Dennis Linde penned 1999 hit Goodbye Earl.
Two high school graduates Mary Ann and Wanda fatally silenced Earl who “walked right through that restraining order and put Wanda in intensive care."
Ironically, actor Dennis Franz - best known as a hard-boiled detective Andy Sipowicz in the NYPD crime TV show, played the villain Earl in the award winning video.
Now, 16 years and 15 million albums later, Oklahoma oriole Carrie Underwood vividly depicts revenge fuelled fatal summary justice dispensed by a battered Baptist bride after hearing the pealing of the bells from her back pew perch.
Seven time Grammy winner Carrie, now 32, didn't write Church Bells but delivers it with punchy passion on her aptly titled fifth album Storyteller, released on the eve of co-hosting the 49th CMA Awards with West Virginian born star Brad Paisley.
Church Bells is a rags to riches sibling of her 2012 hit Two Black Cadillacs from her fourth album Blown Away.
In Two Black Cadillacs - the wife and the husband's mistress - discover they are both being cheated on by the same man and take revenge.
The video draws inspiration from Stephen King's novel Christine and depicts the wife and mistress killing a cheating husband with a black Cadillac and has inspired a TV miniseries.
It's no surprise one of the song's writers - Hillary Lindsay - is also co-writer of Church Bells .
In real life, of course, Carrie is a creator - not destroyer of life.
It's not clear if she will make a video for Church Bells but anthemic tune Smoke Break recently featured on Nu Country TV.
“It's basically an anthem for every hard-working person,” revealed Carrie who penned it with Lindsay and Chris DeStefano – writers of recent hit Little Toy Guns .
“We all wear many hats and are spread thin, so we can all relate to being tired and needing a break. This song is about having that moment to be able to escape from whatever it is that's stressing you out and have some time for yourself.”
CHOCTAW COUNTY AFFAIR
“Well, I do not deny I wished Cassie would die/ when she threatened us with blackmail/ she said she had some information that would wreck my reputation/ and land Bobby back in jail/ now it's best to remember Bobby Shaver's got a temper/ like a buck-shot grizzly bear.” - Choctaw County Affair - Jason White.
Underwood co-wrote six of the 13 tracks on Storyteller but not Jason White penned cheating triangle tune Choctaw County Affair.
When the singer received the demo she didn't listen to it for a few days.
“My brain immediately went to, like, ‘It's a cheating song - you know, like, affair,'” Underwood explained of the swampy saga where the villain is named Bobby - not Billy Joe - Shaver.
“It's not like a cheating kind of affair. That's what I thought it was, when I first saw the title, I was like, ‘Ugh, a cheating song. Choctaw County , it's probably Oklahoma. They're trying too hard to make a Carrie Underwood, Oklahoma cheating song.'”
Instead, it's a Bonnie and Clyde tale set in a Mississippi small town where summary justice is on special - with or without a jury.
“Someone may or may not have gotten killed in the song,” Underwood added.
“This isn't at all what I thought it was going to be. So I turned it up and got sucked into the story.
“You don't really know what happened. There's still a lot left to the imagination, which I like, because I feel like people are going to fill in the gaps in their own way.”
White must be congratulated for his depiction of the Choctaw County Affair other woman - Cassie O'Grady as no Southern lady.
“But her mind was cattywampus/ she was greedy, she was pompous.”
“That lipstick on your collar, well, it ain't my shade of pink/ and I can tell by the smell of that perfume, it's like forty dollars too cheap/ and there's a little wine stain on the pocket of your white cotton thread/ well, you drink beer and whiskey, boy, and you know I don't drink red.” - Dirty Laundry - Zach Crowell-Ashley Gorley-Hillary Lindsay.
Mark Bright and fellow producer Jay Joyce, known for his work with Eric Church, Little Big Town and Emmylou Harris, provided a perfect foil.
Carrie says recording with Joyce helped her grow because his approach is very different to hers.
“Working with him is a little more unpredictable, and I am honestly in life not good with unpredictability,” Carrie added.
“I like schedules, I like rules, I like knowing what's gonna happen. So it was really something I needed to do, I think, working with him. And he's just so creative, just does things in such a different way that I needed that to just get out of my routine.
“As a whole, I feel like it ended up being just a little more traditional, I guess. And a little more laid back but it still had a little bit of a rock edge sometimes and a little bit of an R&B edge sometimes, and it all works together.”
In Dirty Laundry - one of two songs produced by co-writer Crowell - the singer hangs out all the banished cheater's not so hidden sins for neighbours to peruse.
NEXT STOP - MEXICO
“Blue lights on the horizon/ dust clouds filling the sky/ if they get the cuffs on us it's 25 to life/ run, run, your own direction/ and I'll lead 'em down a different road/ take the gun, hide the car and the money/ I'll meet you in Mexico.” - Mexico - Kathleen Higgins-Jamie Moore-Derrick Adam Sutherland.
It's a vast contrast to positive R & B laced love ballad Heartbeat - with Sam Hunt on backing vocals - and innocent temptations and desires of dreamy Like I'll Never Love You Again.
Underwood's character bids a former lover adios in Chaser - “go ahead and chase her” - before exploiting addiction metaphors for resurrected romance in Relapse .
Melodrama fuels time theft in Clock Don't Stop while it's a different robbery that ignites the getaway akin to Robert Earl Keen and Tom Pacheco in Mexico .
The singer promises to transform from blonde to brunette before she reaches Puerto Nuevo west.
Maybe Carrie can borrow Billy Bob Thornton from the historic Travis Tritt Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde cinematic classic for her video of Mexico .
It seems Underwood is trying to update her reality TV talent show roots and follow in the slipstream of Miranda Lambert and The Pistol Annies .
“As a whole the album is a little more laid-back as opposed to the last one,” confessed Underwood who played St Kilda Palais in June, 2012.
“ Blown Away was very dramatic. It was very fierce, was always the word I wanted to use when talking about it - everything from the cover art to a lot of the songs - it was just very in your face. It was a little more aggressive. This one's a little more laid-back, and I feel like it's just really relatable. I think there's going to be a lot of songs on the album that people can listen to and be like, ‘that's my story.' I feel like they're really going to enjoy going through the journey.”