We Need a Carrie Underwood Classic Country Album. And Now.

Look, lobbying for Carrie Underwood among the classic country crowd has always been an uphill battle. And it’s not like she’s done herself any favors over the years with some of the exclusively pop singles she’s released to radio which have unarguably done more harm to the legacy of country music than good.

But the career of Carrie Underwood is a perfect example of why you can’t paint all pop country with the same broad brush. Even though to some it may seem like Carrie just showed up yesterday, winning American Idol, and being foisted upon country fans as the next shiny new thing, in 2020 Carrie Underwood is very much in a mid-career phase. And the native Oklahoman came up at a time when you still had to actually have talent in country music to be successful, and you still needed a foundation of classic country knowledge before you could ever consider playing on the contemporary stage.

For years Carrie Underwood has been contemporary country’s good girl, whether it’s been her steadfast support of the Grand Ole Opry by making regular appearances—something no other major country star does at the moment—to having the guts to release more substantive singles like “Jesus Take The Wheel,” or “Something in the Water.”

But the case for Carrie Underwood was put on full display Wednesday, September 16th at the 2020 ACM Awards. Without any legendary performers scheduled to take the stage themselves—and for understandable reasons due to the pandemic and the elderly’s increased risk to COVID-19—Carrie Underwood was tasked to perform a medley of classic country covers, with the overall theme being the ladies of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry is celebrating it’s 95th Anniversary this year.

Carrie Underwood performed Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” Barbara Mandrell’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” Dolly Parton’s “Why’d You Come in Here Looking Like That,” Reba McEntire’s version of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” originally recorded by Vicki Lawrence, and Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing.”

But it wasn’t just the “what” and the “who.” It was the “how.” The ending note on “A Broken Wing” will go down in the record books. Some wondered why Carrie picked certain songs from the respective artists she covered, but she only wanted songs she could knock out of the park, which she did. And though Underwood sometimes faces fair criticism that she only has one volume setting, which is super loud, she proved at the start with “Crazy” that she can dial it back when necessary.

And this isn’t just about the CMA Awards. To a much smaller audience on the Grand Ole Opry stream on September 5th, Carrie Underwood performed “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” with Brad Paisley, “I Told You So,” written and originally recorded by Randy Travis—which Carrie Underwood turned into a hit for herself in 2009—and she finished up the night with “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”

The power of contemporary artists covering classic country songs is the way it can create a bridge from the old and new, the young and old, and even the pop and traditional. Carrie Underwood is in a unique place to accomplish that very thing, ingratiating herself to classic country fans, while exposing classic country songs to a contemporary audience. This is how you save country music.

And sure, we have enough renditions of old country songs to last a lifetime. But just like Josh Turner recently illustrated with his recent covers record, when you have a one-of-a-kind voice, it’s almost a sin if you to utilize it on country standards in the recorded context. Furthermore, with COVID-19 keeping arena tours at bay for the immediate future, Carrie Underwood could probably find the time, and a hole in her release schedule to accomplish a covers record—her upcoming Christmas record due out September 25th notwithstanding. It feels like it’s not really a matter of “if” Carrie Underwood will do this, but “when.”

Or perhaps even better, maybe at some point Carrie Underwood could put out a record of original material in a classic country vein, steeped in steel guitar and twang. As she proved on the ACM Awards, it suits her well.

No pressure, Carrie. But we’re waiting

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