Five years ago, Lee Ann Womack ‘hoped people would dance’ and they did—all the way to the cash registers. A couple years later she wanted them to ‘leave something behind’ and they did that too. Unfortunately it was her new album.
I Hope You Dance and Something Worth Leaving Behind illustrate the dicey boundaries country artists, especially women, face courting the pop market. After achieving crossover success, the obvious next step is to capitalize on the broader appeal. Country radio and the fans, however, soured on Womack’s attempt.
So what is a newly anointed country queen to do?
Why, get back to basics, of course. For Womack’s latest set, There’s More Where That Came From, ‘basics’ scarcely does it justice. She not only returns, she becomes the classic country of old—a la Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton. The current, lazy trends for the new generation of country women focus on cute, exaggerated narratives or broad emotional concepts lightly grazed over. Womack and famed producer Byron Gallimore steer clear of kid’s table country, instead honing her sweet soprano toward specific, tender moments of revelation (good or bad) that leap over the highest emotional walls.
“He Oughta Know That By Now” watches a stoic wife’s loneliness at the Midnight Motel after leaving her ungrateful husband, and “Painless” settles in the kitchen as confessions spew that are dirtier than the dishes. Womack shines brightest when recounting these details and studying the difficult reflections of middle-aged women. She does both expertly on “Twenty Years And Two Husbands Ago,” which she co-wrote with country stalwarts Dean Dillon and Dale Dodson.
“Looking in the bathroom mirror, putting my makeup on / Maybelline can’t hide the lines of time that’s gone / I weighed 105 soak and wet / I’d knock ‘em dead in that sundress / Had it all, just too young to know / That was twenty years and two husbands ago”
There’s More Where That Came From’s elegant stroll of exploration will tug your heart, but offer hope as well. While giving directions to “Happiness,” Womack sings, “Go down the road ‘till you hit Partyville / Don’t stop unless you’re looking for cheap thrills / Go past Love ‘till you hear wedding bells / Stop at Honeymoon and rest a spell / You might get lost on the way’s my guess / It ain’t easy finding Happiness.”
Just sit back, relax, and let Womack take the wheel for the best stretch of love and lonesome road to come out of Music Row in recent memory.