In one of the livelier bidding wars in Nashville history, Sugar Hill Records/Welk Music has signed Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Lee Ann Womack. The critically acclaimed vocalist’s eagerly anticipated new record is slated for a September release, with a first single coming this summer.
Womack has been vigorously pursued by a number of labels since becoming a free agent after the conclusion of her deal with MCA Records.
“I was looking for the right home for this record,” Womack says. “I knew I wanted a label where passion for music and artistic integrity drive the decision-making. Beyond the incredible work Sugar Hill has done with Nickel Creek, Sarah Jaroszand Bryan Sutton, they have a broader way of looking at where music can go and why it matters – and for this very personal record, it seemed like the perfect fit.”
Added Sugar Hill GM/Senior VP Cliff O’Sullivan: “We’re thrilled to have Lee Ann join Sugar Hill and the Welk Music Group. She has delivered a stunning album, and we can’t wait for people to hear it. Lee Ann turns an important artistic corner with this project -- and we’re delighted to be a part of her next chapter. Where Lee Ann wants to go musically matches up perfectly with our goals as a label."??
Award-winning producer Frank Liddell – known for his work with Chris Knight, Pistol Annies and David Nail -- helmed his wife Womack’s forthcoming release. Beyond winning the Country Music Association’s Album of the Year award in 2010 for Miranda Lambert’s Revolution, his work earned Lambert the ACM’s Album of the Year for three consecutive recordings, including that one, followed by Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Four the Record.
“Lee Ann and I always thought one day we’d work together,” Liddell says of their collaboration. “My wife is one of the greatest country singers ever, but she’s also a vocalist who bring things out of songs you never realized was there. It’s unusual for the musicians to not just want, but to shape their performances to the vocalist during tracking, but for this project... That’s just what some of the best players in the world did. To have a singer who can get on the floor with the players and function as an equal with the musicians, it was an amazing thing to see. Watching what happened during these sessions was one of those moments when you realize what music really can contain.”
A native of Jacksonville, Texas, Womack’s career has represented the high watermark in modern country. In addition to the multi-genre six-week No. 1 success of “I Hope You Dance,” the mulri-Grammy nominee won the 2002 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Collaboration for “Mendocino County Line” with Willie Nelson. She has also received 20 Country Music Association Awards nominations, winning Album of the Year for There’s More Where That Came From, Female Vocalist and two Single and Musical Events.??
Working with a core band that included a rhythm section of Matt Chamberlin on drums and Glen Whorf, guitarist Duke Levine, acoustic guitarist/pianist Mac McAnally and steel player Paul Frankin, the project was recorded live on the floor with minimal overdubs. The instant alchemy can be heard on the tracks, as well as fingers on strings and the space between notes. Among the artists whose songs she covers are Neil Young, Buddy Miller, Hayes Carll, Mindy Smith and Roger Miller, among others.
"If there's one thing about this record that really stands out," says Womack, "it’s that all the songs come from writers who are artists. Every song was written for the writer to sing, and as someone who loves and listens to music, it's a very different reality to cut songs that were written with intention from an artist's perspective, to try and invest in what they've lived so eloquently."
Most recently joining Old Crow Medicine Show, Dolly Parton and Ralph Stanley as part of last year’s Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War, Womack is a go-to collaborator for Buddy Miller, as well as frequent duet partner for Nelson, George Strait, Don Henley, Alan Jackson, Bryan Sutton and Oscar-winning music supervisor Randall Poster.
“I have always loved country music with my entire being,” says Womack. “I think the gift of a genre that’s built on real life is that there is always room for great songs, and the truth. When we started this record, Frank and I promised each other we would only cut songs that we absolutely loved for no reason other than we loved them very much. No other factors, and I think that freedom really inspired us.”
- This article originally appeared in THR.com.