Lee Ann Womack is unquestionably one of the top female vocal talents in country music, and she's fresh off an "event" record in the megahit "I Hope You Dance." They can't all be "event" records, thoug

Lee Ann Womack is unquestionably one of the top female vocal talents in country music, and she's fresh off an "event" record in the megahit "I Hope You Dance." They can't all be "event" records, though (for which the ambitious, string-laden title cut, among others here, clearly aim), nor does an image overhaul turn a country star into a pop diva. Womack is at her best when she follows her keen interpreter's instincts, wrapping her breathy, expressive tremolo around subtle nuggets like the dreamy "You Should've Lied," the gently rolling "Talk to Me," the confessional ballad "Blame It on Me," and the charming "Forever Everyday." High points are a brace of songs by Julie Miller: the powerful, dirge-like "Orphan Train" and yearning rocker "I Need You," with Womack more than up to the considerable challenge of both. "He'll Be Back" is gorgeously rendered country lounge; less effective are "When You Gonna Run to Me," which comes off like an America retread, and the too-busy "Surrender." Womack is brilliant vocalist who is at a career crossroads; here's hoping she leans toward substance over style.—RW