Country singer Lee Ann Womack paints a bracing portrait of life’s complexities on her nuanced new album | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Country singer Lee Ann Womack paints a bracing portrait of life’s complexities on her nuanced new album

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On her latest album, The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone (ATO), country singer Lee Ann Womack brings nuance, depth, and emotional range that comes with age, dispatching the sort of bromides Nashville has proffered over the last couple of decades since she started making records. On album opener “All the Trouble”—a sober, gospel-steeped song about reckoning with reality that she cowrote with Waylon Payne and Adam Wright—the narrator wails, “Make it up that mountain, you’re standing big and tall / Well, the trouble with a mountain, there’s a million ways to fall.” The title track references the heartbreak in the songs of Hank Williams, but acknowledges that even though much about contemporary country music and the consumption of it might be worlds apart from how it was in Williams’s day, the sentiment found in it today often extends the truth in his tunes. “Hollywood” stingingly addresses a broken relationship where the man refuses to face reality of a couple’s frozen coexistence, while “Mama Lost Her Smile” vividly observes that there’s never photographic evidence of the period when a good relationship turns to shit. It’s not all bleak; Womack’s version of Harland Howard’s “He Called Me Baby” embraces the steamy vibe of the Candy Staton version rather than the polite romance of Patsy Cline’s, while her closing cover of the early George Jones gospel hit “Take the Devil Out of Me,” accompanied only by reverb-drenched guitar, concludes the album with a cleansing, celebratory vibe. The album was beautifully produced by Womack’s husband, Frank Liddell, at SugarHill Recording Studios (formerly known as Gold Star), the same Houston studio where Jones made that record in 1959—with a superb band that easily navigates the gaps between honky-tonk, soul, and folk rock.   v

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