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Lee Ann Womack -- a case study in country

Mike Sudhalter  |  May 22, 2007

Perhaps, no female country vocalist has had a more interesting decade than Lee Ann Womack

She came on to the scene in 1997 with a self-titled album that was probably the most country-sounding thing I'd heard at the time. I remember how much pain and emotion there was in ballads like "Never Again, Again" and "The Fool". These songs still rank as all-time favorites of mine. I can recall watching that now-defunct TV show, Country Tonight, and hearing the comment that Alan Jackson or George Jones bought 20 of her self-titled albums, so they could listen to it everywhere they went.

That record, in fact, was that good. If I wasn't a high school junior at the time, I might have splurged on half a dozen of them, too.

There are few albums that I anticipated more than Womack's sophomore effort, and it didn't disappoint either. Her second album, song for song, was better than the first one with the drivin' and cryin' tune, "Little Past Little Rock" and the cheatin' song "I'd Rather Have What We Had", which feature Joe Diffie on harmony vocals.

Soon after that, the artist who was going to save traditional country became an overnight crossover success with "I Hope You Dance". Few outside of country music know Lee Ann Womack. Everybody knows that song.

After what seemed like about two years, Womack was at an artistic crossroads. Unlike Faith Hill or Shania Twain, she didn't have the ability to be a consistent crossover artist. So after a greatest hits package and a wonderful duet with Willie Nelson on "Mendocino County Line", she made a record - There's More Where That Came From" that made her hard country debut seem like bubble gum pop.

I recently received an e-mail from a reader, asking if I knew when Womack would release a new album. I do not. But I hope her next album doesn't reflect the new single, "Finding My Way Back Home". With another artist, it may be fine. But I think Womack's calling card is pure country. I'm just guessing her, but I don't even think "I Hope You Dance" was aimed at crossing over. It was just a beautiful song with a great message, and the pop folks ate it up.

Womack has been an excellent country artist since 1997, and I hope that she continues on the traditional track that's made her popular with so many fans.

:: Posted at 4:10 AM by Mike Sudhalter ::
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