For Lee Ann Womack fans, the six-year wait comes to an end Tuesday with The Way I’m Livin’ — the singer’s first album since 2008’s Call Me Crazy. Was it worth the wait or has Womack stayed away from music-making too long? The answer is a very definitive one, as the Texas native reclaims her spot as one of country’s most expressive and distinctive vocalists. Read on for our track-by-track review of the Womack’s new disc:
“Fly”: Especially early on in her career, Womack’s heartfelt approach was compared to the early RCA recordings of Dolly Parton. That influence shines brightly on this stark recording, where Womack demonstrates her never-ending ability to show her sad side. “I know it’s wrong/To long to be gone/But I do wish I could fly with you,” the lyric states (The writer, Brett Cobb, wrote the track about a family friend’s early death from spinal meningitis). A beautifully written and performed tribute.
“All His Saints”: This song tells the story of a woman who is torn between the never-ending struggle between heaven and hell, right and wrong. On this grooving cut, she chooses the light. A glorious and jubilant expression of faith, perfect for a Mississippi Sunday morning in the Delta.
“Chances Are”: This track has Tammy Wynette/Billy Sherrill written all over it — minus the strings. Womack sings the tale of a woman who just might be willing to take a chance on love again. However, her past mistakes loom large. Does she cross the emotional or the physical line? That’s up to the listener, as the suspense exuded in the song mirrors a 1983 episode of Dallas, and what gets more dramatic than that?
“The Way I’m Livin”: We all have our temptations. We all have our vices. This song is a brilliant piece of lamentation about how easily one can surrender to those feelings — even if one knows the difference. What sells the song — along with the dramatic production — is the final verse, which is a plea for those listening to follow the light, no matter how exciting the other side is. At the end of the day, you realize that nobody sings about the dark end of the street better than Womack.
“Send It On Down”: The decisions that one makes with their life sometimes are a product of what happens before our time. The poignant lyrics are about a woman who is desperately wanting and praying to find her way in the world.
“Don’t Listen to the Wind”: Womack’s vocals once again lean toward the anguished side on this track — about the emotional scars and ghosts from a former lover. Sharing the spotlight on this cut is the haunting melody put into place by producer Frank Liddell, also Womack’s husband.
“Same Kind Of Different”: With all the emotional torment on this disc, there has to be at least one positive love song on this album, right? This track is the one for this album. The two people haven’t gone the full distance with their relationship — yet. However, the potential for a happy ending is there.
“Out on the Weekend”: Womack gives her all on this track, a musical gift of sorts to Liddell, who counts Neil Young‘s Harvest as one of his all-time favorite records. Suffice to say, his gift becomes ours.
“Nightwind”: Not every artist — female or male — can carry off a track that doesn’t have a ton of production or instrumentation on it. But Womack isn’t every artist, and this powerhouse cut proves that once again. One of the best tracks on the disc, the song oozes with pain, regret and sadness — which in music form is a beautiful combination.
“Not Forgotten You”: A mid-tempo song where the singer admits that it’s time to move on from a past heartbreak — but the catch is, it’s a lot easier said than done.
“Tomorrow Night in Baltimore”: A 1971 single for Roger Miller, Womack changes the song from the original first-person perspective, but gives the male character — who is in love with a nightclub dancer — a great deal of empathy. Points to Womack and Company for introducing listeneres to this later Miller gem.
“Whenever I Come Around”: The set closes out with this song that details the restlessness that one feels about being stuck in a small town or a situation that you want to break free from, but at the same time, offers a little hope for a brighter tomorrow in her life. Let’s just hope she doesn’t take six more years to find it!