Having made the transition from hit-maker to casual country chanteuse, and finally, to Americana minstrel, Lee Ann Womack offers up her most engaging effort yet, "The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone," an album whose evocative title effectively sums up the sentiments of each of the songs it shares. Womack may not have written all the material contained herein, but she's responsible for a fair percentage, and even those she didn't pen feel as personal as they are poignant. It's a tribute to her soulful sensibility that even a standard like "Long Black Veil" manages to sound so haunting and harrowing, it's as if its tale is being told for the first time.
Where once Womack could have been identified as just another pop princess or casual chanteuse, she's now redefined herself as a vulnerable soul singer whose ache and pain are palatable. Whether emitting the sultry wail of "All the Trouble" and "Wicked" ("wicked is as wicked does," she suggests), offering up a heartfelt lament ("Talking Behind Your Back"), conveying her intents through a slow sprawl ("End of the End of the World") or emoting with a caress and a croon ("Hollywood"), Womack leaves no doubt as to both her feelings and finesse. "You don't want to take pictures of the bad times, We only wanna remember all the sunshine," he sings on the song "Mama Lost Her Smile," but her ability to seize on the sentiment of each of these offerings captures these memories in a way that leaves no doubt as to the divide.
Ultimately, "The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone " is one of the most defining records Womack's ever made. She's redefined herself as an artist of depth and consequence, and that's etched in the identity she reveals here. Welcome to Lee Ann Womack's real and weary world.