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Lee Ann Womack hopes to join the big (country) dance

By Jeffrey B. Remz, May 2000

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"They had Reba, George Strait. At the same time, they had Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle. So, I wanted to be involved with a company that liked those artists just like I did. I just felt a kinship there."

Womack used her doggedness to pick her manager as well.

"I never have known any other way to get something that I want other than to be as exact as I can and get my goal in sight and put my head and butt my way to the goal. That's just the way I approach things. I'm probably not as good at getting it and going out there and going with the flow."

"Never Again, Again" was her first single, a very slow, traditional country song at a time when wasn't the norm. "I was very very excited about it because it was so traditional country, and I had gotten so much great response from the industry from other artists - George Strait and Alan Jackson," she says. "All these people were talking about it. I had Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White singing harmony on it. It was record that I was creatively very very proud of. It was very intentional that was the first thing that people ever heard from me. It just took off like wildfire, and then it a wall. When it was over, it was such a reality check for me. It just crushed me. I remember not being able to eat for a couple of weeks. Frank was telling me 'It's one song.' Still, to this day, (I think) it should have gone further. Basically it was too country."

"It shocked me when it stopped so quickly."

"I knew that creatively that was a really great work. We did a great job of production, and it was a great song. It bothered me that the thing people said was it was too country. That kind of pissed me off. I was a girl from East Texas. I was country. Country belonged to me. Who is this monster that is taking over country and telling me I'm too country for country? It really made me mad."

On the bright side, "people went out to buy it. It was a top 10 album first week it came out. I was a brand new act. That spoke volumes too."

Womack at least recovered a bit with "The Fool." "The very next song went to number one. It was great."

But the first single still bothered her. A lot.

"I don't think I've ever ever recovered. No no. It didn't make up for how I felt about 'Never Again, Again.'"

Chart success continued with "You've Got to Talk To Me."

The follow-up album, "Some Things I Know" started off promisingly enough with "A Little Past Little Rock" reaching number two on the charts.

But bad news soon resulted.

"There was already concern in the air about Decca. I had some concerns there. And sure enough, it ended up closing after the album was out. That was not a great thing, but we deal with things as they come. I'm the one who's responsible for my own career. I'm the main one responsible. I just had to take the time and the effort and energy to figure out this is not the end of the world. You just have to regroup. That's what I did."

MCA eventually took on Womack. "I'll Think of a Reason Later" did well, but the album sold nowhere near the platinum selling debut.

Then, there was time off for dealing with family issues, like birth, marriage, moving, finding a nanny.

She did find time to provide backing vocals on "Murder on Music Row," the controversial George Strait-Alan Jackson duet.

MCA wondered where album number three was, but Womack moved at her own pace.

"I'm only now just beginning to see some of those rewards," says Womack who's on the Strait Fest tour. "You never know when you make a decision if it's going to be the right one or not. I do think if you get priorities straight, if you take care of the things you should first, in one way or another you're going to be rewarded for it."

Photo by Morello/Gherghia

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