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Monthly album discussion- Play On

countrymusicfan15

Active member
Sorry guys I’m a little late starting this again...work has been crazy! We’re up to Play On though in the monthly album discussion. Looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts :) Posted below is the full schedule:

Jan-Feb: Some Hearts

March-April: Carnival Ride

May-June: Play On

July: American Idol Season 4

August-Sept: Blown Away/Greatest Hits

Oct-Nov: Storyteller

December-January: Cry Pretty

2021: CU7!
 

Zach1998

Member
I guess I'll start this one off. I feel like this album gets way too much hate. Is it my favorite? No, but I still feel like it is very solid. Guarantee if any of these new female artists released "Play On" as their debut album it would be viewed as next level. I actually think that they chose the right singles (minus Mama's Song.) Cowboy Casanova is iconic. Temporary Home is beautiful. Undo it, while not my favorite is iconic and was a smash. I do think it could have been maxed to it's full potential if SWISLY, This Time, & WCIS were singles. However, I would have had the feature on WCIS be a more known artist with name recognition in the country format around that time like Tim McGraw for example. For singles I would have went somewhat along this line:

Cowboy Casanova
Temporary Home
Undo It
SWISLY or WCIS
This Time
 
Cowboy Casanova is the first Carrie song that I remember. I downloaded it on my old school iPod and jammed hardcore. It is a shame that this had the "mediocre" singles so to speak, but I love both Temporary Home and Cowboy Casanova. I don't understand why so many people have Play On as their least favorite album, because some of my favorite songs are off of this album (Temporary Home, What Can I Say, Look At Me, Someday When I Stop Loving You, etc). I could envision Carrie doing What Can I Say with Dan and Shay...the vocals would be amazing on that!!
 

Momin

Active member
I don't hate Play On but it's the album that I've revisited the least. I personally see the album cycle being a time of transition of sorts for Carrie, both personally and musically. It was when she had recently gotten married and her love was blooming with Mike. Plus, after the success of Carnival Ride, I'm not sure what it was exactly, but I think there must have been bursting possibilities in the directions she wanted to take (even more so after Some Hearts). That's why I'm personally not that hard on Play On because every artist goes through a period of figuring themselves out and that can result to unexpected results. Nevertheless, there are strong moments on the album and there are my two cents:

- SWISLY is one of her standout career songs. In terms of its pace, tone and feel, I'll put it in the same league as FC and LINLYA.
- I find the instrumentation of TT and Q layered and intricate and I personally want to hear songs with instrumentation like that. I'd say I also like the softness of the title track too.
- In retrospect, I don't find CC very interesting vocally (although it was my most played song at some point) but I do find the strong use of the steel guitar throughout the track a unique feature that is not heard on pop-country songs at all!
- SLT is another favourite of mine from the album.
- Unapologize is very generic but it's one song that I have revisited time and again. It's a great melody and vocal.

Even though I listened to the album as much as any other Carrie album at the time, in retrospect, TH, C, LAM, WCIS and MS are songs that I don't much care for. TH doesn't resonate with me like it used to, I don't like big-statement songs like C anymore, LAM was released too soon after ITYS and (for me) paled a little in comparison, WCIS is a little generic pop for me and could have been better with a changed instrumentation, and while MS is a greeeat vocal and production, I can't get over the basic lyrics haha.
 

countrymusicfan15

Active member
For me, I feel confident in saying this will always be my favorite Carrie album. It came out a couple months after I started my Freshman year at college. I lived in the dorms, and while my Sophomore year I met a lot of friends and went out a lot (oh the crazy times at the dorms lol) my Freshman year I kept to myself for the most part. Just about every night after watching tv I would put on Play On and listen to it from start to finish (sometimes more than once) while doing homework and going to sleep. I still remember when that rough pop demo of Cowboy Casanova got released!
And then I still listened to the album all the time during my Sophomore year too! Anytime I hear any of the songs it just takes me back to that time in my life. Plus, my fav song of all time is on it too! This Time! Still to this day I consider it my #1 Carrie song. Just so many memories associated with this album..not to mention her amazing performance of UI/Walk This Way with Steven Tyler at the ACMs!!!
Oh also during this time I think I was the most active with voting and streaming (especially on CMT and Vh1). Fun times!!
 

Farawayhills

New member
I don't hate Play On but it's the album that I've revisited the least. I personally see the album cycle being a time of transition of sorts for Carrie, both personally and musically. It was when she had recently gotten married and her love was blooming with Mike. Plus, after the success of Carnival Ride, I'm not sure what it was exactly, but I think there must have been bursting possibilities in the directions she wanted to take (even more so after Some Hearts). That's why I'm personally not that hard on Play On because every artist goes through a period of figuring themselves out and that can result to unexpected results. Nevertheless, there are strong moments on the album and there are my two cents:

- SWISLY is one of her standout career songs. In terms of its pace, tone and feel, I'll put it in the same league as FC and LINLYA.
- I find the instrumentation of TT and Q layered and intricate and I personally want to hear songs with instrumentation like that. I'd say I also like the softness of the title track too.
- In retrospect, I don't find CC very interesting vocally (although it was my most played song at some point) but I do find the strong use of the steel guitar throughout the track a unique feature that is not heard on pop-country songs at all!
- SLT is another favourite of mine from the album.
- Unapologize is very generic but it's one song that I have revisited time and again. It's a great melody and vocal.

Even though I listened to the album as much as any other Carrie album at the time, in retrospect, TH, C, LAM, WCIS and MS are songs that I don't much care for. TH doesn't resonate with me like it used to, I don't like big-statement songs like C anymore, LAM was released too soon after ITYS and (for me) paled a little in comparison, WCIS is a little generic pop for me and could have been better with a changed instrumentation, and while MS is a greeeat vocal and production, I can't get over the basic lyrics haha.

I think much of your assessment of the album is spot on.
Like you, I've tended to rather under-rate this album in the sequence of her career (in my case, probably because I found most of the singles, in particular, to fall somewhat below the standard of her more memorable releases). But lately, I've come to value it much more - and to see parts of it as a forerunner of the direction she's been taking in her latest albums. One of the things i find most characteristic of Carrie's work (and something I much admire) is her sensitivity to the genre's roots, and her willingness to blend and pay homage to that in her drawing on wider influences and development of modern sounds. (It is in fact, an aspect of her work that is often overlooked, but which, I think, deserves much more credit than it receives.)

You mention the strong use of steel guitar, and the relatively unusual emphasis on this compared to much of today's contemporary chart material and Pop Country - and that is a point I'd like to enlarge on a little. Much of the pedal steel playing on the album is by Mike Johnson - a long term presence on Carrie's early albums - who plays, I think, on eight of the tracks here. But the guest steel players are also interesting. On "Quitter", Carrie is joined by Jon Graboff (who plays pedal steel in Ryan Adams' band). "Quitter" is an interesting song, because it was Carrie's only foray, so far, into the Swedish Pop of Max Martin and Shellback. This is a fashionable genre blending experiment (Taylor Swift, for example, tried it) - but, as far as I know, Carrie stands out as almost unique in the extent to which she was determined to keep a strong Country element in the recording.
Another unusual example is the use of lap steel in "What Can I Say" (I've seen lap steel used in Dixie Chicks and early Miranda Lambert performances - but it would seem quite striking for most of today's chart artists.) Here it's played by by Austin Clark (of the Sons of Sylvia) and you can see it most clearly in the All Star Holiday Special video

One of the artists playing on this album is Aubrey Haynie, an IBMA winner, best known for Old Time style fiddling. (He has, for example, collaborated with Ashley Monroe, on the highly traditional "Pretty Saro", a song that goes right back to the genre's distant roots in the British Isles.) One wouldn't typically associate Carrie with that aspect of the musical blend - but here we have a traditional fiddler playing on two of Carrie's biggest hits, "Cowboy Casanova" and "Undo It" - and this, again, illustrates for me her determination to retain the element of Country tradition in her progression to newer sounds.

"Play On", the title track, is one of the "special" album closers, where Carrie likes to explore a theme with a special meaning to her. It's additionally noteworthy for me as Carrie's only co-write, so far, with Natalie Hemby (currently adding to her already strong critical appeal as a member of the Highwomen)

In general, though, I would agree with you in naming SWISLY and SLT as two of my favourites, and I would also add UI. SWISLY was the song that Carrie herself called her favourite track on the album, and I think it stands as one of her most sensitive vocals overall - more reflective than the better known "power vocals", but, in my view, all the more expressive for that. SLT is a pure "character" piece (Carrie herself would never hold those sentiments in real life!), but it is a high energy Country Rock number, of the type I'd like to hear her do more often. UI is deservedly, in my opinion, a perennial crowd pleaser - but also sometimes dismissed as not, in itself, a very worthwhile song. On the contrary, I find it a very clever mix of Pop/Rock motifs (including the wordless syllables and stuttered vowels), delivered in a way that sounds unmistakably Country - and thus a very "Carrie" song, in the sense I have been emphasizing.
(Two of those songs, by the way, were co-writes with Steve McEwan, a British songwriter who was involved in some of Carrie's best early songs, and who, I think, showed a strong understanding of her artistic strengths I think, though, that this was probably the last album of hers he collaborated on)
 
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liz278

Active member
When I look at the album I realize that I really liked this album when it came out. But it is my least played album. It has a couple favorite songs - SWISLY, TH, WCIS, LAM and SLT. So I don't know why I don't play it,more often.
 

lizcarlo

Active member
I don't listen to this cd much. I do really like SWISLY, WCIS, LAM and TH. I do listen to those on YouTube when listen to Carrie live on YouTube. Love the way she sings LAM and SWISLY in softer way. Its is stunning. I like the three stories that tie together to tell message in Temporary Home. I help my mom take care of nephews when she took care of them. I usually put them to sleep. I could put that song of her singing this performance and my nephew would go to sleep pretty quick. It really relaxed him.

 

NC State Carrie Fan

Active member
Okay I must have missed this somehow because I just am catching up on this monthly album discussion threads. But it upsets me that PO gets so much hate because it is personally one of my favorites. Maybe because this is the first Carrie era that I was really "a part of" being a huge fan.

Cowboy Casanova has consistently stayed in my top 5 Carrie songs and tbh I think it is up there with BHC/BA/GG as like HUGE smashes. Undo It does not get as much love as it deserves because even if the lyrics aren't great it served as an awesome hit for Carrie. And I am one of the few that LOVE Mama's Song (def not as a single) but I love the song so much.

SWISLY
What Can I Say
This Time (one of my fav album tracks through the years)
Look At Me
Songs Like This (smash waiting to happen)
Quitter

This album as a whole was one of my favorites because I LOVED the album tracks. Change is the only song from PO that I actually did not like and there is no other Carrie album (maybe CR) that I could say this about. So underrated.
 

NC State Carrie Fan

Active member
Cowboy Casanova is the first Carrie song that I remember. I downloaded it on my old school iPod and jammed hardcore. It is a shame that this had the "mediocre" singles so to speak, but I love both Temporary Home and Cowboy Casanova. I don't understand why so many people have Play On as their least favorite album, because some of my favorite songs are off of this album (Temporary Home, What Can I Say, Look At Me, Someday When I Stop Loving You, etc). I could envision Carrie doing What Can I Say with Dan and Shay...the vocals would be amazing on that!!
Okay first....WOW could you imagine a Carrie/Dan & Shay re-release of WCIS. They are so hot right now that would be a huge crossover hit imo. Plus I think Sons of Sylvia did a good job on the song but Dan & Shay could KILL that vocal.

Also I feel like the same as you Countrymusicfan - I think this being my first album that I really followed Carrie makes it special for me because I have SO many memories attached to many of the songs. I lost two of my grandparents in 2010 when TH was out. I remember I had that radio station leak version of CC for the first like 2 months on my Ipod where I could quote the radio DJ's 45 second intro lol. SWISLY was one the first Carrie songs I learned on guitar. And the PO tour was the first time I got to see Carrie on tour and actually meet her! It will always be one of my favorite albums and def one of my favorite eras.

I JUST WISH WE GOT 5 SINGLES FROM ALBUMS - SO MANY LEFT OFF SMASHES THAT COULD'VE BEEN FROM EVERY CD
 
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