Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

After a foray into pop with 2002's "Twisted Angel," LeAnn Rimes has made a return to her country roots, literally and musically.

Rimes, the one-time teen vocal phenom who was raised in Texas and moved to Los Angeles for a few years, now lives in Nashville with her husband. Her new album, "This Woman," brings her home to the music that made her famous.

While still chock-full of pop influences, "This Woman" is considerably closer to country than "Twisted Angel." Rimes calls the album "country on my own terms."

And it appears that fans are accepting of those terms, snapping up 101,000 copies of the set in its first week on sale in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, to put it at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and No. 3 on The Billboard 200.

Rimes and her label, Asylum-Curb Records, are committed to firmly re-establishing her as a country artist. In fact, label executives have not yet decided whether they'll promote any singles from the album to other formats, although they haven't ruled it out.

Rimes has had considerable pop success in the past with such crossover hits as "How Do I Live," "I Need You" and "Written in the Stars."

While they never turned their backs on Rimes, country radio programmers are nonetheless welcoming her new sound. Current single "Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense" is Rimes' first top 10 country hit in more than four years.

The album was produced by Nashville's Dann Huff, who is known for melding pop and country sounds in a highly marketable way. Rimes says they connected on her vision for the album. "I wanted to strip it down and not have so much production on this record," she says.

Rimes calls Huff "a brilliant producer. He gave me the freedom to be an artist and sing the songs the way I wanted to sing them."

The album also showcases Rimes' emerging talents as a writer. She co-wrote three of the songs and says she is now "very confident in my writing." Rimes also believes she is just starting to "chip away" at her potential in that area. Contentedly married for three years and settled into her Nashville home, the 22-year-old Rimes says the new album comes from "a happy place ... A place in my life I feel really confident as a woman and really comfortable and in love."

Rimes is planning to tour behind the album this summer, but no firm plans have been set. Last fall, Rimes toured with a 65-piece orchestra to promote a Christmas album.

Meanwhile, she will get plenty of exposure on TV this year. She will join the USA Networks reality series "Nashville Star" as host for the show's third season, which debuts March 1.

"It's something new for me and will be really fun," she says, promising that "we're going to do a lot more behind-the-scenes stuff and add a little more drama this year."

She will also promote the album with appearances scheduled on "Today," "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson," "Live With Regis and Kelly," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "The Tony Danza Show," "Hannity & Colmes," "Tavis Smiley" and "Good Day Live."

Rimes admits she may have driven off some of her core fans with "Twisted Angel," her eighth studio album, but she defends her option to experiment musically. "People forget that I was a young woman in this business. I had a right to do that as a 19-year-old."

And even though sales of "Twisted Angel" may have been a bit disappointing in the United States (422,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan), she says the album "brought me a whole new audience overseas, so it was a great thing for me."

Outside of North America, Rimes says she's better-known as a pop star. She's currently working on what she calls a "rock album" for European release. It will include five or six songs from "This Woman" remixed.

In a 2002 interview with Billboard, Curb Records VP of pop promotion Bob Catania said Rimes "has made a musical decision to be a pop artist." But, Rimes points out, that's something she has never stated herself.

"I never completely said I've gone away from country music," she says emphatically. "I love country music and always have."





Excerpted from the Feb. 5, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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