May 29, 2008
Lee Ann Womack
When she released her debut album in 1997, she was widely hailed as the great hope for traditional country music, a much-needed counterpoint to the pop crossover sounds that were beginning to dominate the genre. With time, Womack would prove that she wasn’t so easy to pigeonhole.
She grew up in Texas, the daughter of a country radio disc jockey. Her dad turned her on to the sounds of classic country music and she was smitten. When the time came for college, she attended South Plains Junior College in Texas, since it was the only school she could find that offered a major in country music. She took the next logical step and moved to Nashville after that, attending Belmont University for a brief time.
While at the school, she interned at MCA Records. She was a dedicated follower of George Strait, and it was his label where she wanted to record. By the early nineties, she had settled down in Nashville with a husband and young child, while building up her songwriting catalog and putting on showcases. Tree Publishing caught a showcase, heard her demo and signed her. She scored some cuts on albums by Bill Anderson and Ricky Skaggs, but her stint as a staff writer was short-lived. Decca, an imprint of MCA, signed her to her own recording contract, and she started work on her debut album.
By the time it was ready for release in the spring of 1997, the biggest female artists in country music were pop-country superstar Shania Twain and teenage phenom LeAnn Rimes. While Rimes had flirted with classic country on her debut single “Blue,” Womack reveled in it on her entire debut album. The eponymous set featured guest appearances by Ricky Skaggs, Mark Chesnutt and The Whites. The lead single “Never Again, Again” topped out at No. 22, but record buyers hungry for traditional country made her album an instant hit, reaching the top ten within weeks of release. Radio jumped on the next two singles, “The Fool” and “You’ve Got to Talk To Me.” The album went platinum, the CMA nominated her twice for the Horizon Award and, in 1998, the ACM named her Top New Female Vocalist.
She kept the momentum going with her sophomore set, Some Things I Know, in 1998. The gold-selling disc produced another pair of top five hits, including “A Little Past Little Rock,” which netted Womack her first Grammy nomination. But her big breakthrough came with the lead single and title cut from her third disc, “I Hope You Dance.”
Almost instantly, the tender wish list became an anthem, a mother’s day classic and a graduation staple. It topped the country chart, crossed over to pop and AC, and earned her a slew of awards, including three ACM’s and a CMA in 2000. On the strength of “Dance”, “Ashes By Now” and “Why They Call it Falling,” Womack was named CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 2001. The album would eventually sell three million copies.
In 2002, Womack had the opportunity to sing with one of her childhood idols, dueting with Willie Nelson on “Mendicino County Line.” The song was a top twenty hit, and won both the ACM and CMA for Vocal Event, and a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. That same year, Womack released her ambitious fourth album, Something Worth Leaving Behind. It featured more challenging and off-beat material than she’d done before, along with a pop-flavored production that disappointed her purist fans. While radio didn’t embrace the project, the album went gold and the title track earned her another Grammy nomination.
Changes at her label and disappointment with the response to Behind led Womack to take her time working on her next project. She was unsure of which direction to go in until her husband played her the demo of a song he’d heard at work that day, “I’m Gonna Love You Tonight.” Her mouth dropped open when she heard the chorus, and she suddenly knew what direction her next project would go in. The song was chosen as the lead single, and retitled “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” to draw more attention to the money line in the chorus.
The song struck a deep chord with country listeners, and her album There’s More Where That Came From became her highest charting album to date when it entered at #12 on the Billboard 200. The ACM nominated her for Single and Album of the Year in the Spring of 2005, but the CMA went much further the following fall. Womack was the belle of the ball, winning Single and Album of the Year, along with Musical Event for her duet with her favorite singer, George Strait.
In 2006, Womack was back again with a new single, “Finding My Way Back Home.” The upbeat song reached a disappointing No. 37, and the planned album of the same name was pushed back from its planned release. While concrete reports of her upcoming recordings are hard to come by, she has committed to some limited touring dates this year, so fans have some respite while they pine for long-awaited new music from Lee Ann Womack.
Lee Ann Womack
- “Never Again, Again”, 1997
- “A Little Past Little Rock”, 1998
- “I Hope You Dance” (with Sons of the Desert), 2000
- “Mendicino County Line” (with Willie Nelson), 2002
- “Something Worth Leaving Behind”, 2002
- “I May Hate Myself in the Morning”, 2004
- Some Things I Know, 1998
- I Hope You Dance, 2000
- Something Worth Leaving Behind, 2002
- There’s More Where That Came From, 2005
- ACM Top New Female Vocalist, 1998
- ACM Single (“I Hope You Dance”), 2001
- ACM Song (“I Hope You Dance”), 2001
- ACM Vocal Event (“I Hope You Dance”), 2001
- ACM Vocal Event (“Mendicino County Line”), 2003
- CMA Single (“I Hope You Dance”), 2000
- CMA Female Vocalist, 2001
- CMA Vocal Event (“Mendicino County Line”), 2002
- CMA Album (There’s More Where That Came From), 2005
- CMA Single (“I May Hate Myself in the Morning”), 2005
- CMA Musical Event (“Good News, Bad News”), 2005
- Grammy: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (“Mendicino County Line”), 2003