Carrie Underwood’s upcoming fifth studio album is called Storyteller, and the video for its lead single casts her in the role of one — albeit one who walks through the Mojave Desert in slow-mo, looking sizzling hot in fringed boots and denim shorts the size of a postage stamp. It’s the country music equivalent of Bo Derek running through the surf in the movie, 10 — although more incredible because it’s been a mere six months since the seven-time Grammy-winner gave birth to her first child.
Written by Underwood with frequent collaborators Hillary Lindsey and Chris DeStefano, “Smoke Break” is an ode to hard-working folks who can use a respite, even if it doesn’t involve tobacco. The Randee St. Nicholas-helmed video begins with Underwood driving through the dusty, sepia-washed desert in a vintage Ford truck, with only the radio and her guitar as companions. She passes a busy waitress in a diner, and a first-generation businessman struggling with his responsibilities. Then her truck overheats, and she has to hoof it, while a patient horse trainer and weary welder toil nearby.
Underwood hitchhikes the rest of the way to her gig at a neighborhood bar (picked up by a friendly female, of course). She takes the stage in front of a small crowd of patrons that includes — surprise! — all the local characters we met earlier who were working hard and could use a break. She sings their life story, then moves on to the next dusty town. . . like an angel of mercy in Daisy Dukes.
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The video is a fitting accompaniment to the sultry song, which features Underwood putting a bit more twang in her vocals than usual — a welcome dose of laid-back country cool after a string of glossy, high-octane arena rockers and soaring ballads. This is the Underwood many fans have been waiting for — thanks to production by Jay Joyce, whose raw edge has defined the recent work of Eric Church and Little Big Town.
Released as a single last Thursday, “Smoke Break” has already broken the record for the highest number of single-week adds in the history of the trade publication, Country Aircheck. Storyteller is scheduled for release on October 23rd, just before Underwood’s eighth turn co-hosting the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley.