Category Archives: Interview

Exclusive Interview: Introducing Maggie Sajak

Rising country star Maggie Sajak recently took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us, and we’re thrilled to introduce you to her. We chatted about everything from her hot new single “Wild Boy” to her love of Carrie Underwood to her impressive school-music balance.

Maggie recently released a video for her new single, “Wild Boy,” which is a song that she loved immediately upon hearing. (Us too!) While most girls deal with a wild boy or two, the song has a unique twist on the typical tale. “I love the song because it’s powerful for a lot of people. A lot of girls end up having a boy like that in their life at some point, for better or worse. Sometimes they stick with us, sometimes they don’t,” Maggie says. “What’s cool to me is that the song doesn’t just focus on the guy, but it’s more about a girl making the decision about the guy and whether or not to put her heart on the line.”

On first listen to “Wild Boy,” Maggie immediately connected with the lyrics and knew it was a perfect fit. “When I received it, I definitely got the chills the first time I heard it and it really touched me, so I was thinking that it would touch a lot of other people. That’s the most important thing to me, always, the lyrics and the impact it has.”

Although Maggie didn’t pen her current single, she does write much of her own music and uses a similar method whether writing or choosing songs. “When I hear a song on the radio, I know if I like it immediately. I figure when I hear a song to record, I really want to like it immediately,” Maggie tells us. “If it’s important to me and meaningful and comes from the heart, then hopefully it’ll mean something to others as well.”

Fans of CMT’s guilty-pleasure dating show Sweet Home Alabama first heard Maggie’s song, “First Kiss,” played as Devin Grissom chose Adam Moyer to be her final suitor. Although that TV romance was short-lived, it was that single that took a then-16-year-old Maggie’s talent from a hobby to a career path

Having grown up singing, performing and playing instruments, she was always enthralled with music, but when she picked up the guitar at age 13, she really began to hone her craft. “I started playing guitar more seriously at age 13, and that’s when I started writing more songs and doing more local performances.” Those live performances empowered Maggie with a different type of energy and inspired her to pursue music more seriously.

In addition to guitar, Maggie also plays the piano, mandolin and ukulele. And while she’s on a quest to become the female version of Hunter Hayes, she hopes to eventually add drums to her musical repertoire. “I would love to learn drums. I think that’d be amazing because everything that I play is kind of similar so I think that the drums would be a little different.”

While balancing a musical career may be tough for any 18-year-old, Maggie is currently laying the ground work for a “pre-med” path at Princeton. The hard-working teen, whose dad is Wheel of Fortune host, Pat Sajak, tells us that education is just as important to her as music. “Education is really important to me, music is obviously very important to me.” She tells us. “I think I’d have both in my life no matter what, to some extent. Now, I’m working in music and I love them both. I don’t want to give either of them up.”

Maggie looks to another famous blonde for inspiration, both in finding a balance and life and in music and fashion. “I really love Carrie Underwood and for a few reasons. Obviously, she has an amazing voice and amazing music, but I also love her sense of style. I like the way that she incorporates fashion into her performances and everything,” Maggie says. “I like the way that it seems like she really balances her personal life and her professional life really well because you don’t really hear about scandals and things with her. I think it’s great she can stay really grounded and that’s the thing I’m always going to try to do, no matter what.

While she may admire Carrie’s music and style, it’s the boys of country music that Maggie would most like to tour with, naming Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean & Hunter Hayes as her top three dream tour choices.

Although Maggie Sajak may not be a household name just yet, she’s well on her way and working on a full album. “I care about each of these songs, and I’m putting together a full album and looking forward to writing more about my personal experiences. I know in your teenage years, it’s when’s a lot is happening, the songs mean a lot to me,” Maggie tells us. “And I just want to get good messages out there. And I think it is important for younger people too and for girls to be able to look up to me. That’s important to me. That’s one of my biggest priorities.”

Keepin’ It Country Lightning Round:

Favorite country song: “Long Hot Summer” by Keith Urban

Dream Duet Partner: Scotty McCreery

Favorite Junk Food: Cupcakes

Favorite Song to Cover: “The Rose” by Bette Midler

Last song listened to: “Red Hands” by Walk Across the Earth

We loved speaking with Maggie and are excited to watch her career rise. You can visit her official website and make sure to follow her on Facebook & Twitter.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: CMChat’s One to Watch — Abbi Scott

Abbi Scott is an Indiana teenager who is in her senior year of high school and looking forward to graduation (much like all other high school seniors!). However, Abbi is not your typical high school senior. While Abbi has her face in textbooks, she has her sights set on music, and there is no stopping this country girl from making her dreams come true! Abbi describes herself as “a true country girl, living on twenty-five acres, and . . . in love with the outdoors.” Abbi has been compared to Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, and Kelly Clarkson, and values these music industry phenoms’ strong work ethic and ability to maintain a sense of humor.

When Abbi was little, she took to singing before developing the act of speaking. Abbi was often found “hogging the TV time so [she] could use the remote as [her] microphone.” Abbi would share her talent with anybody who would listen, and Abbi certainly does not discriminate regarding who is fortunate enough to be entertained with her vocals! “I’ve sung for anyone that would listen. I consider one person an audience.” Luckily for Abbi, her audience grew from one person to crowds, as she got her official start at county fairs and festivals.

As Abbi grew up, and her love for music progressed, Abbi began songwriting as well. Abbi explained her songwriting process to us. “The songwriting process for me starts with a lot of ideas or my life experiences. I take writing very seriously and want to give listeners a song that will impact their lives. My hope is that they can identify with my work.”

In between performing and songwriting lies a typical high school student who describes her life as “crazy,” but immediately states that she “wouldn’t have it any other way!” The late nights are well worth it to this #CMChat “One to Watch,” and Abbi is surrounded by friends and family who are extremely supportive of her talents and dreams. Abbi is incredibly grateful for the support she has and, thanks to those around her believing in her abilities, Abbi has had experiences that most teenagers could never imagine. Abbi has opened for several of country music’s hottest artists, including Lee Brice, Jana Kramer, DJ Miller, David Bradley, Dustin Lynch, and Maggie Rose. “The feeling of sharing the stage with big name artists is amazing! I get to open up, get the crowd fired up, and make sure that I’ve done my job as an opening act! I love crowds and the fans are so supportive of their artists! It’s a rush!” And Abbi certainly cherishes her interactions with the fans and the opportunities afforded to her by these artists. “The best moment of my career so far has been meeting so many incredible people! From my fans to all the amazing artists that I’ve opened for … I’ve loved them all! Each person has made an impact on my life.” Abbi is humbled by the experiences she has had and is “so honored for the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with and I pray for more down the road.”

If recent happenings are any indication of whether Abbi will be blessed with more of these opportunities down the road, we have no doubt that we will be hearing Abbi’s voice on our radio stations in the near future. On September 21, 2013, Abbi released her EP, Abbi Scott, which was released on iTunes. Abbi promises that you will find “high energy, honesty, and something fresh while staying country” on her EP. “Fans can expect to hear songs I’ve written about my life and true country music. My hope is that listeners can relate and find a piece of their life story in my songs.” Abbi’s music has certainly resonated among country music fans, as Abbi was recently deemed “One to Watch,” an honor that Abbi ironically describes as “indescribable.” Abbi believes that the cards are falling into place and that her “hard work is being noticed” and she feels like “NOW is the right time for country music fans” to open their ears, minds, and hearts to what she brings to the table. (By the way, we couldn’t agree more!)

Like any blossoming artist, young or old, Abbi has thought about who she would love to collaborate with, and it’s no surprise that this blonde bombshell, who we immediately thought “this girl reminds us of Miranda Lambert!” (check out AbbiScott.com and you will understand what we mean), would love to join forces with the pistol-holding, Gunpowder and Lead-singing, superstar. Abbi bodes “our song would be completely badass!” Abbi also explains that she would like to collaborate with Outshyne and Blackjack Billy, bands which she describes as “a great look into the future!”

What’s next for this sassy, talented country girl? “Well, I need to graduate high school first and foremost. I’m a senior and will graduate in the spring. Next, along with school work, I just want to improve as an artist. Working on my craft is so important and just means that I evolve as an artist. I’m very honest, loving, and determined. I’m approachable and I love my fans! I want my fans to never be afraid to talk to me because I love meeting new faces and making people smile. I’m hoping to be signed to a label that embraces my sound. Finally, you’ll find me living full-time in Nashville, Tennessee. It is where my heart belongs and my soul feels alive! I want to make my musical dreams come true and always stay true to how my parents raised me … Hardworking, genuine, and honest!”

Just for fun, we hit Abbi with one of our typical lightning rounds!

All time favorite country song: Remember When by Alan Jackson

All time favorite country song to sing: Gunpowder and Lead by Miranda Lambert

Last song you listened to: You’ll laugh, it was The Wop by J. Dash. I don’t only listen to country!

Favorite place you have performed: Pucketts Grocery in Leipers Fork, Tennessee.

It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Abbi and getting to hear about this budding artist’s past, present, and future. We wholeheartedly agree that Abbi is one to watch and encourage each of you to download Abbi’s new EP on iTunes, visit AbbiScott.com, and watch the videos below. You will definitely want to add Abbi to your playlists so you can tell your friends you “knew her when” the first time you hear her voice coming through the speakers in your cars! We know we are eagerly anticipating that moment!

REVIEW: Miranda Lambert – Platinum

Miranda Lambert released her fifth album on Wednesday, choosing a simple play on the word Platinum for the title. She could be referring to her platinum blonde hair but, seeing as how her last four albums all went platinum in sales, it is more likely an easy prediction. This album finds Lambert at her most introspective and nostalgic, everything from the lyrical content to the adventurous spirit of the compositions, Platinum relishes the past. Though she presents more of her rootsy side, she blends it with the modern pop sensibility, pushing herself as only a fully-developed artist is able to do.

It is musically her most diverse album to date, going from lively guitar shredding in “Little Red Wagon” to a lap-steel ballad in “Smokin’ and Drinkin’ (feat. Little Big Town)”. On Platinum we find Lambert stretching the limits of the genre and experimenting sonically while keeping her strong voice and persona intact. It is this voice that holds the album together, guiding us through her corner of the south, sharing the perspective of a confident, strong and charismatic woman who offers no apologies. From feminist issues to her marriage to Blake Shelton, she takes her daily concerns and filters them through her realistic and often humorous perspective.

She guides us with a wink and nudge but just when that sort of rye humour might grow tired she lets down her guard and shows us her more vulnerable side on tracks like “Bathroom Sink”, a song about facing yourself in the mirror and the depth (or shallowness) it could entail. She gives us these vulnerable moments only after presenting herself as self-assured, resulting in an endearing three-dimensional persona that is easy to relate to and admire. As far as role-models go, the youth of today could do a lot worst, Lambert advocates generosity and good-intentions but she constantly reminds us that she isn’t perfect nor does she pull her punches.

Lambert includes a lot of radio-ready pop-country in Platinum but also songs like “Old Sh!t”, a tune where you can almost hear the creaking of a rocking chair on a porch, and “Gravity is a B**ch”, a honky-tonk stomper with so many great lines about getting old it would be difficult to highlight the best. Both songs contain expletives in their titles, something not usually seen on country music records, and they both sound like they consciously avoid pop-country production. Instead they harken back to more simple times, melding southern grit with some modern sensibilities.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a contradiction when listening to the more subversive songs that represent a reaction against pop-country, like the folksy “All That’s Left”, next to those that fit the mold like the lead single “Automatic”. Lambert co-wrote the song with lyrics that look back fondly on the days before everything seemed so easy. It’s a relevant message that can hold several meanings, the obvious one being the advent of technology but the more interesting one would relate to Lamberts process. The more adventurous songs sound like reactions against being more comfortable with the song writing process. While “Automatic” has an infectious melody and a relevant message, Lambert seems to forget this very message in the song itself and relies on predictable pop-country devices without taking much risk, but assuring radio play.

A good blend of Lambert’s risk taking and mainstream sensibility is her duet with Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad”. The drums take centre stage in the production and hit hard as the two talented voices take turns snarling with ferocity and cooing gently. It’s like the Queen classic “We Will Rock You” filtered through the Lambert lens but keeping all of that sneering attitude that can only come from winning. That is the essence of Platinum, Lambert knew going into it that this was her victory lap.
Is all this to say that Platinum is lazy? It is actually very ambitious in scope, encompassing many different styles with Lambert’s vision keeping it cohesive. Having both deeper cuts and big pop-country choruses suitable for the summer just makes the album more diverse. Platinum is the vision of a unique talent with an incredible voice that despite world-wide success can still write some of the most humble and honest songs out there. You can’t help but be won over by the end, as she caps the album off with “Another Sunday in the South”, a track with imagery that captures the heat of those afternoons perfectly. It’s got sultry guitars and organs creating the kind of closer that makes you want to start the album over again.

Let us know what you thought of one of the biggest name in country music’s latest effort in the comments below.

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Jason Charles Miller

Jason Charles Miller is definitely not your ordinary urban cowboy. Rather, he represents the dark, gritty side of country music – the type of country music that should receive more acknowledgement than it does.

Regardless, this Virginia native knows his way around the entertainment industry. Although he might be most known for heading the rock band Godhead, Jason has travelled many paths throughout his life. His impressive resume includes writing, producing, voiceover recording and acting. If that wasn’t enough, Jason is busy overseeing his own recording studio, Central Command Studios.

We caught up with Jason today to talk about the release of his new single “Up To Me,” his recent signing with Render Records, how he feels about the music industry and what he has to offer.

We can promise you that this man has a mind and heart evident in both his thoughts and music that any country music fan could appreciate and love. Take a look for yourself:

 

Your single “Up To Me” was released to country radio today. Tell us about that song and what it means to you.
I wrote it with my friend Joe Doyle who is a pretty awesome songwriter. He’s had a 25+ year career as a professional songwriter. He’s had songs for Kenny Rogers, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and everybody in between – even Alabama. One of the keys to his success as a country songwriter is that he doesn’t listen to the radio or pay attention to trends. He just loves to write. I really admire that about him because as a country artist and as a country writer, I’m always listening to the radio. Sometimes I get really frustrated, but it also may influence my approach to songs. Sometimes that can be a dangerous way to approach the way you’re going to write a new song (based on a song that’s on the radio right now).

We were talking about the subject of what we wanted to write about. This is actually the first song we ever wrote together. We realized there are hundreds, if not thousands, of songs about a bar. But we couldn’t recall any song that was actually taken from the perspective of the bar and the bar that you lean on and order your drinks from. What if we brought life to that bar and personified this thing? Anybody that has ever been to a bar has leaned on, has ordered a drink from, has spilled a drink on or has met someone at a bar. A lot of these things that happen in our lives happen while leaning on a bar – at least most adults. We decided to take that perspective and just go with it. I hope that people get it, enjoy it and like it because the challenge as a songwriter, especially in a genre like country music, is that there are certain subjects that are almost expected of you as a country writer. But it’s about finding how to stay within the parameters of what a true country song is and still give it a unique perspective and a unique way of presenting maybe a story we’ve heard before, but telling it in a new way. I hope that we did that.

 

How has living in Hollywood affected you as a singer, especially a country music singer?
It’s really interesting. I have to go to Nashville to find anybody that likes the kind of music that I do (laughs). Although, if you scratch the surface, you’ll find people that really like country music. As far as fans go, the largest country radio station in America is actually in Los Angeles. But as far as country artists and writers go, they’re harder to find. In a way, its kind of nice because that makes it a much smaller community and a much more manageable community. We all kind of know each other. But at the same time, most of the writers out here are obsessed with pop music and that’s the big business in music in Los Angeles. So it’s a challenge finding people that are really familiar with country music to write with and to collaborate with. People that aren’t familiar with the genre don’t realize how detailed it really is. Unless you have either really grown up in it or really studied it for a long time, you wouldn’t know that there are so many subtle nuances to all of the sub-genres of country music. It’s really refreshing when you do run across somebody that knows what you’re talking about and knows what they’re talking about because it’s just a lot harder to find here.

 

You’ve opened for artists like Toby Keith, Gary Allan and Eric Church. Who would you like to tour with in the future?
Jamey Johnson is my musical hero, so I would absolutely love to tour with him. On a larger scale, somebody like George Strait would be amazing. Have you heard of Blackberry Smoke out of Atlanta? They’re on Zac Brown‘s label. The thing I love about them is they have a really infused southern rock element within their country sound. I would love to tour with them. Those are just the ones off the top of my head. There are so many. The great thing about country music is that I love how so many artists that are pretty widely varied but still fit under that umbrella of country all sort of tour together. I would love to open for Merle Haggard. He’s still touring and he’s one of my all-time favourites.

 

You signed with Render Records last month. How excited are you about that?
I’m really excited. With living in Hollywood, I’ve probably made at least fourteen trips to Nashville in the last two years. I was a shock to a lot of the major labels in Nashville. Almost universally, I got the same message back that was “he’s too extreme for Nashville.” I don’t believe that because I think that there is a huge disconnect between “the powers that be” and the fans. The reason that I feel like I’ve proven that that’s true is I’ve opened for Toby Keith, Eric Church, Justin Moore and Gary Allan. I co-write with Toby Keith’s bass player and music director. I co-write with Eric Church’s guitar player. What I’ve discovered is that when I opened for these artists, their fans embraced me from note one. They were in to it right away. I think that the same fan that listens to Toby Keith also listens to The Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd or even Disturbed or Linkin Park. I think that especially now in the age where you can listen to anything in a second if you want to, everyone’s musical tastes are widening.

I feel that there is definitely a place for me in country music. So it’s a big justification to me to sign with a Nashville label that gets me, understands me, and will let me be who I want to be and won’t try to water me down or try to change me to fit into this small little mold. I think that the fans are sick of that. I think that they’re hearing way too many things that sound the same and I want to break that mold and expand people’s horizons that already are expanded – just the “powers that be” don’t know it yet.

 

You co-wrote or wrote every track on Uncountry, your first full-length solo debut. How important is it for you to have a stake in writing your songs?
I think it’s pretty important for me. Coming from my rock career and coming from a band, I think it’s important because it puts your personal stamp and your personal signature on it. When I do cover songs, I try to put my own spin on them. My new album is going to be called Natural Born Killer. That is coming out in July. I do one cover on there, but all the rest are either solo-writes or co-writes. I just think that if you’ve been a writer for as long as I have – cause I guess I’ve been a professional writer for almost twenty years – you want to have that personal signature on there. So for me, it’s important. But then again, if I hear a song that just blows me away, I’ll want to record it as well and put my own stamp on it.

You own your own recording studio. Do you have any stories about recording sessions in the studio that you could share?
Most of them I try to put out of my head – all of the embarrassing ones (laughs). One of the cool things about owning the recording studio is coming up with interesting sounds. If my friends and I find something that we think is percussive and can make a cool sound, like a piece of steel or a box, we’ll take it into the live room and record it just to have our own samples of our own types of percussive instruments. That’s a lot of fun – finding new sounds and sampling that and adding it to recordings. With the stuff I’m doing now, I try to make it as organic as possible. I don’t want to have any kind of programming in there. It’s the opposite approach of what I’ve done in my spare time, which is create sounds from any kind of object. But any object has it’s own pitch so it’s fun to experiment with that.

 

What kind of experience do you hope to give your fans when they come out to see you play?
I want to give the kind of experience that they don’t forget. I want to play material that’s going to move them in some way. That’s really the key. I often get told that I don’t have enough party songs. But that’s not really my personality. I mean, of course I like to have a good time. It’s not that I take myself too seriously, because I really don’t. I’m a jokester just like everybody else. But I feel like the music that I’m trying to portray – I want it to have a bit of weight to it. I’m not going to sing about real party-party stuff. I want to make people think with my music. I want them to enjoy that part of it as well. I think with the live show, besides having a kick-ass band and everything else, I want to play songs that people remember and songs that will affect them in a positive way. Even if it’s not about going to the party, at least it’s something that will make people feel good.

I think that my problem with the party songs in general and me performing the party songs (which I don’t really do) is that I feel like you shouldn’t have to sing about having a good time – the music should just make you have a good time. The music could be about anything. I feel like there are too many songs about songs or too many songs about music. You don’t need to sing about music – you just need to play the music and play what has inspired you to write it. It doesn’t need to be about itself. I’ve seen that trend a lot and I’d like to break that trend. There are too many songs that are about themselves.

 

What has been your most memorable or rewarding experience during your career in the music industry?
There are a couple of things. The first time that my picture was in Rolling Stone Magazine with my band – that was a really awesome moment. That was something that I could show my dad. If your picture is in Rolling Stone, that kind of validates it to your parents. Another one was when I got my first gold record for being on the Queen of the Damned movie soundtrack with my name on it and able to get two more for my parents. Whether you know anything about music or not, everyone knows the term “gold record.” To be able to actually have two – I was also on The Punisher soundtrack – and be able to get both of those for my parents was pretty rewarding for me.

 

Is there anything in particular you would like our readers to know about you?
I’m pretty opinionated, but I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m not trying to say that there’s not a place for the party song. I’m just trying to say that there’s not really a place for me within that. But I think that any fan of music is going to appreciate different styles and different subjects within the music that they listen to. I don’t know anybody that just wants to listen to party songs all day. I think that music is something that drives us all and puts us in different moods. I want to be able to set the mood for different things. But at the same time, if I have a song that reminds somebody of a bad time but then helps them heal or get through that, to me that is more important and can have a more lasting impression on somebody and can be a more rewarding experience for me when that happens.

REVIEW: Carrie Underwood – Blown Away

Carrie Underwood first achieved crossover success in 2006 with her treatise on appropriate responses to infidelity, “Before He Cheats”. That track hit number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the country charts, propelling the blonde bombshell to new heights of popularity. Since then, though, she’s stuck closer to home while occasionally dipping a toe in the pop realm as with “Cowboy Casanova” and the duet “I Told You So”.

But it sounds like three straight number one records and seven years of continuous success have given her the confidence to step outside her comfort zone.

Underwood’s new album, “Blown Away”, does just that to all previous attempts at country-pop crossover. There’s some great traditional country on this release, but it’s completely overshadowed by a trio of spectacular crossover songs.

The album’s lead single, “Good Girl”, follows her previous success with the similarly themed “Cowboy Casanova”, warning girls away from bad-news men. This rock and club-infused number is catchy as all hell. A throbbing electric guitar opens the song and pulls you in, and a slightly synthed lyrical echo is perfect to sing along to. Although it’s hard to find the country in this one, the way it’s climbing the charts shows that country fans really don’t mind.

Underwood follows that with the title track – a song that will prove a landmark in country music. “Blown Away” is a dark tempest. Drums thunder, cymbals crash like lightning, rain tinkles from a piano in quieter moments, and Underwood’s voice wails like the twister in the song. The vivid instrumentals and her astonishing vocal work tell the story at least as much as the lyrics. The mood is set for the darkest song the American Idol winner has ever performed. It’s “The Thunder Rolls” for a new generation, only more intense. And although there’s nothing to mark it as a country song, it’s a stunning piece of music that can’t help but impress.

“Two Black Cadillacs” is similarly dark and dramatic, evoking the smouldering anger of the women inside the eponymous Caddys – “One is for his wife/the other for the woman who loved him at night”. The song is subtler only compared to the previous track, but does come across more brooding – think “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”, with Carrie’s smooth, pitch-perfect singing.

The latter two songs turn a page for Underwood, who, to date, hasn’t tried anything nearly so adventurous. The result isn’t just refreshing; it’s exceptional.

The album’s mood lifts considerably after that stormy interlude. “See You Again” would have been a hit for Shania Twain ten years ago. The Oklahoma native does the song great justice with her dynamic and uplifting voice, and at times it feels like her early single, “Some Hearts”. Next she reminisces about young love in the enjoyable “Do You Think About Me”.

“Forever Changed” is a soft piano-backed ballad about the challenges of Alzheimer’s. It feels a little out of place so quickly after its powerful predecessors, but it is a sweet song that will find a loyal following.

The singer then reassures teenage girls in “Nobody Ever Told You”, a song in the vein of Martina McBride’s “This One’s for the Girls”, before taking off for spring break in “One Way Ticket”. This Caribbean-infused ditty has more than a hint of a Jimmy Buffett attitude.

It’s around here that you realize that Carrie has a much more refined capability than in previous efforts. Where in the past her dominant voice has threatened to overpower both the studio band and your speakers, she seems in more control now, softening and nuancing her voice as much as needed. That’s experience. The evolution makes her one of the best singers in popular music today.

Underwood goes on to pay tribute to her roots with “Thank God for Hometowns”, where she finds rejuvenation every time she goes back. That’s followed by the post-breakup “Good In Goodbye”. The singer makes peace with the past, having recognized the incompatibility, moved on, and presumably having found happiness.

A strumming acoustic guitar gives “Leave Love Alone” a contemporary country feel more than any other song on the disc. It’s a simple, likeable little number that will undoubtedly chart if it’s released as a single. It’s refreshing to hear Carrie in a pure country song. It may not make full use of her range as a singer, but every now and then you just want to hear a good tune with a solid hook. She delivers that here.

“Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” is another fun piece, with a fast-paced Brad Paisley-style guitar line – which makes sense. Paisley plays the instrument for this slightly redneck track. The pair seems to like working together. They also hosted the CMA Awards for the fourth time in 2011, and their duet, “Remind Me”, hit number one on the country music charts last fall.

After the bitter “Wine After Whiskey”, about a relationship gone south, Underwood closes the album with another Shania-esque track in “Who Are You”. Her voice soars in this religious anthem, which, not coincidentally, was penned by Twain’s former producer and ex-husband, Mutt Lange.

“Blown Away” is the most diverse and exciting album that Carrie Underwood has released to date. It’s got the Dear Carrie advice column, the contemporary country sound, the redneck feel, the faith-based anthem, and the electrifying crossover hits. With her newfound vocal control and nuance, there’s no sound she can’t tackle, and it’s all on show in the album’s 14 tracks.

Expect “Good Girl”, “Blown Away”, “Two Black Cadillacs”, and probably “Leave Love Alone” to rocket up the charts upon their release as singles. The title track is a contender to top the Billboard Hot 100, too – it’s that good. As for the album…number one on the charts won’t be enough. This is an award-winner.