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CD Review: Carrie Underwood

Play On (19/Arista Nashville)

Like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood has transcended her American Idol upbringing. She's a gifted singer with a strong team of record-makers guiding her every move. On her third album of pop-skewing country, the 26-year-old heartland singer steers a little more toward big-city sounds. Swedish hitmaker Max Martin is on board; so is Mike Elizondo, who penned Play On's first single, "Cowboy Casanova," a raging field-stomper that sounds like Gary Glitter with a fiddle. And "Quitter" bounces along to a springy pop beat with a dash of steel guitar. But Underwood's heart — and the album's foundation — is still firmly rooted in the big, show-offy ballads that made her a star in the first place. "Someday When I Stop Loving You," "Change" and the title tune are swathed in swirling strings, lush production and sweeping choruses. Underwood sounds most at home here, even as she begins her move away from the place where she was raised. — Michael Gallucci

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