Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Lee Ann Womack, “A Little Past Little Rock”

“A Little Past Little Rock”

Lee Ann Womack

Written by Jess Brown, Brett Jones, and Tony Lane 

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

November 20, 1998

Lee Ann Womack launches her second album with her second No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

After going to No. 1 with her second single, “The Fool,” Lee Ann Womack produced two more hits from her self-titled debut album: the top five “You’ve Got to Talk to Me” and the top thirty “Buckaroo.”   The album went platinum, and powered Womack to New Artist wins at the American Music Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards.  Her sophomore album, Some Things I Know, kept her momentum going, with both of its first two singles going to No. 1.

The No. 1

Lee Ann Womack was hailed as a retro traditionalist in the vein of Loretta Lynn and George Jones when she first arrived on the scene, but her most prominent spiritual influence has always been Willie Nelson.

Womack can do pure country as well as anyone to come along in the last three decades can do pure country.  But she’s never limited herself to it, and has skillfully incorporated pop, rock, and even jazz into her records, changing styles effortlessly whenever the inspiration strikes her.

“A Little Past Little Rock” could have been a simply arranged country song like her breakthrough hit, “Never Again, Again,” but rather than repeat herself, she chose to accentuate traditional country elements with a sophisticated pop melancholy.  It makes for a dark, haunting record, with the ghosts she’s trying to outrun never losing sight of her, no matter how far she goes or how hard she steps on the gas.

It’s a significant artistic step forward for a woman who was emerging as one of the defining voices of country music as the century turned.

The Road From No. 1

Womack returned to the top with the second single from Some Things I Know.  We’ll cover it in 1999.

“A Little Past Little Rock” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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5 Comments

  1. I know she had massive success throughout her career but still feel like she was underrated. Just like Patty Loveless I think she was one of the greatest vocalists that ever came out of the 90’s.

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  2. …still love this song and the beautiful album it came from. what a great stylist she turned out to be. the killer heels she is often seen wearing show that she is not only a style concious artist, but also a woman. one of the finest out there in the big country universe.

  3. I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but this is another one of my top favorites of 1998, and it’s still one of my personal favorites by Lee Ann Womack. It’s definitely one of the coolest sounding records of her career, as well, imo! I also agree with Tyler on both Lee Ann and Patty being two of the best vocalists of the 90’s. And yes, both of them do seem underrated despite being two of the all time greats.

    Everything about this song is perfection, and it’s such a dark and haunting masterpiece. This is probably one of the best “driving at night” songs of all time, and it’s just a terrific night time record, overall. It actually just came on my ipod while I was out the other night, and with Fall here and the nights finally getting nice and cool, it just sounded absolutely perfect at the moment. :)

    The production and overall sound of “A Little Past Little Rock,” is just flawless, and they truly succeeded in making it the perfect soundtrack to driving down a dark, lonely road at night, and being unsure of where you’re going. The haunting feel of the strings, the fiddle, the steel, the cool sounding electric guitar, and the lonesome wailing harmonica all do a great job of reflecting the uncertainty of the narrator and her continually being haunted by her past love, as well as the emptiness and creepiness of the “lonely stretch of blacktop” that she’s traveling on. I really dig the smooth sounding electric guitar in the second verse, as well. Her ex husband, Jason Sellers, also provides some great backup vocals, and I especially love how they sound together as Womack sings “Oh but I can’t turn this thing around,” right before the spooky sounding strings kick in. As mentioned, this was such a perfect and creative way of putting a late 90’s contemporary country spin on Womack’s otherwise normally neo-traditional sound.

    This is also still one of my favorite performances by Lee Ann. Her unique, smooth voice featuring her Texas twang fits the mellow and haunting feel of the record like a glove. Also, she perfectly nails the fear and nervousness of leaving the life she had behind for the first time. And even though she’s convincing herself to keep driving farther away from it all, you can still hear the uncertainty and anxiety in her vocals, as if she’s still wondering if she made the right decision after all and could turn around any time, especially since she’s still “a far cry from gone,” despite the number of miles she’s put between herself and Dallas.

    “A Little Past Little Rock” also flows perfectly lyrically, as well. Every line in the song is a keeper, and they all perfectly paint the situation that Womack’s narrator is facing, as well as the dark and lonely surroundings she’s found herself in as she’s fighting back memories and ghosts of her past love and life, all the while trying her best to get as far away from it all as possible. I especially always liked the line “I’m learning more with every mile just how leavin’ feels,” as well as the killer main hook “I’m a little past Little Rock, but a long way from over you.” Even the opening line to the second verse, “These headlights on the highway disappear into the dark,” really helps set the mood and and atmosphere of the entire song.

    As soon as I hear those opening strings in the intro and that cool sounding lead guitar, I’m instantly taken back to the Fall of 1998 and 7th grade. It was just so great to be able to experience hearing songs like “A Little Past Little Rock” on the radio during that time that sounded so great with the increasingly chilly weather and the leaves changing color. :) The first time I heard it was on a school night while in bed listening to my clock radio before I fell asleep. Even with the radio’s lack of bass, the song still sounded awesome coming out of that radio, with the low guitar, the strings, harmonica, fiddle, etc. coming through loud and clear. I fell in love with the sound of the song instantly, and the DJ agreed, as well, with him complimenting it for it’s “cool western style” after announcing it as Lee Ann Womack’s new song. Earlier into my 7th grade year, as “A Little Past Little Rock” was getting a lot more airplay, I remember this song especially being stuck in my head during my Civics class. Even today, it still sometimes reminds me of my 7th grade Civics class, and the teacher we had for it, Mr. Crouch, who preferred to be called “Mr. C”. He’s actually another one of my favorite teachers I had in middle school, and Mom and I often ran into him while shopping at our local Giant. :)

    I also ended up recording “A Little Past Little Rock” on the first tape I did during my 7th grade year. It’s actually on the B-side of the tape I recorded The Wilkinsons’ “26 Cents” on. On that side of the tape is “How Do You Sleep At Night” by Wade Hayes, “Imagine That” by Diamond Rio, “Wish I Didn’t Know Now” by Toby Keith, “A Little Past Little Rock” by Lee Ann Womack, “How Forever Feels” by Kenny Chesney, “Turn Out The Light and Love Me Tonight” by Don Williams, “Ordinary Life” by Chad Brock, “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This” by George Strait, and “Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me” by Ronnie Milsap.

    And like many of these other songs from late 1998, early 1999 do, “A Little Past Little Rock” also takes me back to when my parents and I were going to Olive Garden a lot more regularly for dinner, with me especially enjoying the lasagna there for the first several times. :)

    The video for “A Little Past Little Rock” is another one I enjoyed seeing for the first time on GAC in late 1998, and again, they couldn’t have nailed the setting and atmosphere of the record any better. I love the black and white image of Lee Ann driving into the night, plus some of the neat effects done by the headlights. Not to mention, she is absolutely gorgeous in this clip, as well! I especially love her hairstyle here and the darker color of her hair at the time.

    Unfortunately, “A Little Past Little Rock” joined several other great late 90’s country songs in not getting any more airplay in our area once the mid 2000’s arrived (That shouldn’t be surprising since radio also didn’t play the singles from her excellent There’s More Where That Came From album enough either during that time). Luckily, I was able to find a used copy of Lee Ann’s Some Things I Know album around that time. Once again, whenever I listened to “A Little Past Little Rock,” I always wished mainstream country still sounded as cool and sophisticated as that song does.

    Some of my other favorites on that excellent sophomore set are: “I Keep Forgetting,” “Don’t Tell Me,” “If You’re Ever Down In Dallas,” “When The Wheels Are Coming Off,” “I’d Rather Have What We Had,” and the title cut. I definitely agree with Tom that it’s such a beautiful record, and it’s still one of my personal favorite albums of hers.

    Interestingly, I once read a post a while back on another forum that Lee Ann and the label had originally planned to release “Montgomery To Memphis” as the fifth and final single from her debut album, until they found “A Little Past Little Rock” and decided that needed to be her new single, instead. While I would’ve absolutely LOVED to have heard “Montgomery To Memphis” on the radio (it’s one of my biggest favorites on her debut), I definitely can’t argue with the choice to go with “…Little Rock” either, since not only is it such a great song, but it also ended up working very well in the end for her. What’s even more interesting is that “Montgomery To Memphis” is also about a woman leaving a guy far away, except in this song, she DID successfully leave him behind with very little to no regrets. If it weren’t for the different locations of the man she left, it could almost be heard as a sequel to “A Little Past Little Rock.”

    I also have a soft spot for the previous single, “Buckaroo,” since it was one of the songs that was on the featured country music program on the airplane that flew us to California when we took a vacation there in late August of 1998. It was even still stuck in my head when had our first dinner in CA at the TGI Friday’s around Orange County, lol.

  4. What is it about Little Rock that lends itself to such lyricism? Colin Raye hit number one referencing the the Arkansas capital and now Womack name drops the river town to equally powerful effect.

    Womack was an epiphany. This song is mesmerizing and hypnotic, atmospheric and woozy.

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