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Lee Ann Womack finds there's more of where that came from

By Jeffrey B. Remz, January 2005

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Womack, 38, clearly was influenced by her father musically. She remembers listening to him on the radio where he played real classic sounding country songs.Womack enjoyed such a love of country music that she went onto a program in country music at South Plains Junior College in Texas for a year. She then went to Nashville to Belmont College, long known for its country music business program.While at Belmont, where Trisha Yearwood also went, Womack joined the school's music business program and also interned at MCA Records.

That was enough for Womack to be hooked on the label.

She didn't play out in Nashville, instead doing that during summer vacations back home in Texas.

In Nashville, Womack did showcases, singing very traditional songs, a rarity at the time. Someone from Sony Tree Publishing came to see her and signed her up to a songwriting deal.

Six months later, Womack inked a record deal with Decca, a subsidiary of MCA. That was the only label Womack would consider because of its roster, folks like Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett, and label head Tony Brown, still a key mover and shaker in Nashville.

Lest there be any doubt where Womack was coming from musically, her first single was "Never Again, Again," a slow country weeper, which cracked the top 20, though it performed far worse on the charts than Womack envisioned.

The album was filled with traditional sounds, including the uptempo "Buckaroo," the ballad "The Fool" and "A Man With 18 Wheels."

Her follow-up "Some Things I Know," continued showing that Womack was not going to give in to a pop sounding brand of country with songs like her hit "A Little Past Little Rock" with former husband Jason Sellers helping out, "I'll Think of a Reason Later" and "(Now You See Me) Now You Don't."

Womack started straying away from the more traditional sound on "I Hope You Dance," which became a career song for her, spending five weeks at number one. The song showcased Womack's great singing voice, but was more pop oriented.

The disc, which came out in 2000, was not a case, however, of Womack abandoning country. She just toughened up her sound with songs like Buddy and Julie Miller's "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger" and Rodney Crowell's "Ashes By Now" balanced against "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good," a very strong reprise of Don Williams' hit and the ballad "Why They Call It Falling."

Her follow-up, "Something Worth Leaving Behind," sort of mimicked "I Hope You Dance" on the title track. Only it wasn't as successful. And Womack continued with the mix of the Miller edgy sort of country ("I Need You" and "Orphan Train") with a real traditional sound ("He'll Be Back").

"I was 100 percent satisfied with the record," says Womack. "I was not 100-percent satisfied with the commercial success of it."

Womack acknowledges that the disc threw listeners a bit."I'm always kind of (wanting to) make different kinds of music. I want to be like a Dolly. I want to be like a Willie."

"They record all kinds of music," says Womack. "That's what they do. Sometimes they work commercially, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes it takes 20 years for an album to catch on. What I do is I'll always make the best music I can and stretch out and do different things and have a good time doing it."

Parton has long been an influence on Womack. Many songs sound like Parton could sing them as well, though Womack can't be accused of imitating Parton.

"I've heard Dolly do such a wide variety of things. It's almost hard to imagine not hear her (sing) anything. It's fair to say I have the influence. I was definitely influenced by her as a child. She's such a remarkable talent that it never bothers me when someone makes that comparison."

"Early on, when I would watch the Porter (Wagoner) and Dolly show on TV, I think it might have just caught my attention. I thought she was funny. She was what you'd call attractive - the big hair and all the make up and everything. I would just watch her and be fascinated. Then, later on when I started singing myself, I started thinking 'my gosh, how does she do that?' She is really an incredible singer. I came to appreciate her as a singer and writer when I was older."

For the new album, Womack switched to producer Gallimore for all but one song. Gallimore, best known for his work as producer for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, also worked with Womack on the two new tracks on last year's "Greatest Hits" package.

Mark Wright produced Womack's first two albums, most of the third along with Liddell and some of "Something Worth Leaving Behind." Womack co-produced most of the songs for the first time on "Something...", while Liddell also helped produce.

Why the change to Gallimore?

"That was Frank's decision," says Womack of her husband. "I was still on MCA, but it was basically a new label."

What had happened was that MCA became part of the Universal conglomerate with many jobs lost and positions changed as well in the record company overhaul.

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