Ever since Carrie Underwood won American Idol in 2005, she has worn her heart and her faith on her sleeve while also singing about the things country artists sing about: being done wrong, getting over heartache, and celebrating love. But after two albums of music that deliberately reflected her faith (a Christmas album and an album of hymns), Underwood is done being serious, at least for the moment. On her ninth studio album, Denim & Rhinestones, she is just having fun. The songs are mostly up-tempo, power rockers that show that, even though Underwood’s voice can sing a hymn with delicacy and care, she can still roar above a high-octane band with the best of them.
In the liner notes, Underwood writes that in this album her purpose was to “create a happy, shining light in a world that has had its share of clouds over the past couple of years” and on that score, Denim & Rhinestones delivers. Even in a song like “Hate My Heart,” where Underwood sings about missing her ex, she does it with a hard-hitting beat and a hook in the chorus that makes you forget that this is supposed to be a sad song.
While Denim & Rhinestones doesn’t break any new ground musically or lyrically, Carrie Underwood has given us a fine album that seems designed to play loudly while driving on an open road with the windows down. That’s not a bad way to spend an hour. (Capitol Nashville)