Tina asked if we could look back to her fav, Lee Ann Womack. I feel Lee Ann Womack is one of the most angelic country voices we've had in the last 30 years. She had a good, but short run of really great songs with some nice success. I very proudly played all her country hits on great radio stations across the country.
Her First Hit Song - Great Debut
From Texas, LAW entered the charts at a very competitive time in country music, 1997. She was a throwback who seemed to be right on time, and she and her music were so amazingly real. Like many others from that incredible decade, she poses an interesting question. In another era, would things have been different for them? We will never officially know, but I always felt with her it was a little easier to speculate. She was, and is a very good traditional country singer, and I always felt her sound and style was timeless. (More on that point later).
I Loved This Song - Did Well For Her
I fell in love with her singing right from the get go with her first single and album. The self-titled album, and the first single, Never Again, Again was a fantastic song, sung incredibly, arranged magnificently, and perfectly written. It didn't perform on the charts like you would have wanted, but the next few singles did, The Fool and You've Got To Talk To Me were both top five songs. She had some big names associated with her, like songs from Ricky Skaggs, and Mark Chesnutt, and Jason Sellers who was a great musician and songwriter she married.
The Fool - Helped Her Break Through
The next album, Some Things I Know was a big success as well with hit songs, and great sales. Her debut album sold a million and this one went gold with successful singles and a ton of airplay. With her amazing voice, talent and terrific image it would have appeared she was in store for a long run of big songs. She was winning awards from many organizations including the ACM, CMA, AMA, and industry magazines and groups. This was 1998 and 1999, and really big things were happening for her, and about to really happen for her.
Loved This Song - Top 5 Hit
2000, the I Hope You Dance album came out and things were shoved into a higher gear. The song, you know and love was about as big of a hit as you can have. It won every award it could win, and was a true smash as it sold millions, 3 times platinum. I loved the next single too, Ashes By Now, and there were two more singles making the album a prolific success. The lead single was a pop smash too, and topped the AC charts, nad is a song that will be played and loved forever. It also led to a sudden career stall. That song, and this album was the best - and worst thing to happen to her in the long run - in country.
Buckaroo - A Real Listener Fav
The next album in 2002 attempted to cash in on the new crossover success, Something Worth Leaving Behind. It was leaning far more pop than the style of country she was known for, and the move was on to make her a country and pop sensation, that was a trend then. I remember I winced when I saw the album and listened to it the first time. The project overall was not who she was at her core as an artist, I knew it, and fans knew it. As far as critical reception was concerned, it was legit to a very few, and trashed by most others. It was a flop in every regard. From my seat, it was an error that has been made too many times. Faith Hill had the same problem with country fans over the Cry album about the same time. Faith rebounded later with a strong country return with Fireflies in 2005. Country fans don't want to feel like they are not good enough anymore, they feel abandoned after supporting you. And you can't use Country as a musical safety net because fans see right through that.
Songs Get No Bigger Than This One
I think in LAW's case, country fans absolutley loved WHO she was musically and her image, and this new album was not that in their view. Also in fairness, sometimes HUGE hits and albums like I Hope You Dance are really tough to follow up as the bar is now very, very high. It was the perfect storm for a disaster. Many people, including me, always felt that was a key to the 30 plus year run of fellow Texan George Strait. He never had that HUGE, HUGE album he had to follow up. They were all just really good - and true to himself.
The Follow Up To A Smash - Written By Rodney Crowell
It seems that LAW would also rebound in 2005 as Faith did in 2005 as There's More Where That Came From was released and it was a strict return to traditional country. It won awards, was critically acclaimed, and was just darn good. It was on vinyl and CD and the entire project had a strong throwback vibe. It was a big success by any measure. But the truth was, that her big time charting days in country were behind her. That has no bearing on her talent. She just never really never recovered and reclaimed her place on our charts. It may have been country itself changing directions, or a whole lot of competition. Or maybe the swerve towards real pop for a time was too damaging - that never really seems to go over well in our format, unless it is a clean break and you move on Ala Taylor Swift.
Great Song - Fantastic Album
But LAW is a talent for sure. She still sings, and I'd still love to hear her sing. She has had success in the Americana format, and is widely respected as one of the great singers we've had in many years. She's easy to listen to, and easy to like. She has sold 7 million albums, is a 17 time major award winner and been nominated for about 50 more. I was a big fan during her country run and so were a whole lot of others.
A Great Country Song
She also is a great example of a very hard truth about the music biz in general. Here is LAW, loaded with talent, an incredible voice, a terrific image, beautiful, with a strong record deal making really good music. Seems like the perfect mix. But the truth is, not everyone gets a 10, 20 or 30 year run in country or any format. True, it does happen, but it's more rare than real. Sometimes decisions and circumstances just happen. I'm glad we had her for the time we did. She was a lot of great things about country when it was tough to break through - and she did.
Bravo, Lee Ann Womack. Bravo!