Whether she's tackling a honky-tonk heartbreaker or a soaring ballad, Lee Ann Womack remains one of country music's most expressive vocalists. Although she's earned Grammys, CMA awards and several chart-scaling hits, Womack remains one of the most underappreciated treasures Music City has ever produced. Her latest album, The Way I'm Livin' was a painfully long five years in the making but well worth the wait. Rolling Stone Country's Twitter and Facebook followers pick the top 10 of her many spectacularly recorded performances.
It's refreshing to note that not all in Womack's world is viewed from the bottom of a whiskey glass. While she and her beloved may find more ways they are different than alike, they still manage to make it work by complementing each other's strengths and fulfilling each other's needs. Written by Natalie Hemby and Adam Hood, this standout from The Way I'm Livin' is a sweet reminder that although you may not have things in common, two unusual halves can still make a very lovely whole.
On the long list of Womack's singles that should have been even bigger hits, this one, penned by Don Schlitz ("The Gambler") and Roxie Dean ("When I Think About Angels") certainly stands out. The ways of love are mysterious no matter which side of it you're on. But calling it "falling" in love, when you're seeing skyrockets and hearing birds singing, doesn't make much sense. It's only when things start to go wrong (as they often do in the greatest country songs) that the word starts to resonate.
Trying to bond with her man's ex over drinks isn't exactly ideal, but Womack can't help pleading her case to the other woman so that he'll let go of memories of his old love and stick with her. But telling the woman, "I'm not here to put you down," then adding "You don't love him, and that's a fact, girl, I've seen you around," could be just asking for trouble. Womack has never sounded more vulnerable than she does on this Number Two smash from 1997, and that's really saying something.
A chance meeting with the devil and the wicked temptation of a single drop of "somethin' sweet," and things here are off to a scary start. Accepting her fate, which means sleeping all day and staying out all night, Womack asserts that being bad feels pretty good, but the ache in her voice tells us differently. Penned by Adam Wright, this slow-rocking tune is one of the singer's most intoxicating, which is this case is a good thing.
This hilarious — and deliciously bitchy — hit from Some Things I Know was penned by Tony Martin and Tim Nichols. Its lyrics uncover her not-so-subtle disdain for the new love in her ex's life, who is now engaged and staring out at her from the social page of the Sunday paper. She may be a friend to the homeless and a Nobel Prize winner, but Womack doesn't have to like her. The devil horns and blacked-out tooth she draws on that newspaper article are a nice touch. Something tells us she won't be invited to the wedding.
A bit of lonely, late-night drunk dialing turns an already fragile Womack into a self-loathing mess. And that's before she picks up the phone. Though she doesn't reveal what happens afterward, it's easy to relate to that temptation to do something (or someone) that's bad for the long run but makes the short run a lot less painful. There's nothing to feel guilty about, however, when it comes to loving this traditional country masterpiece penned by Odie Blackmon.
Penned by Shane McAnally and Erin Enderlin, this haunting lament is infused with hints of anger and frustration by Womack. No longer content with being her man's "last call" after the bar closes, she's ignoring the ringing phone and moving on. In addition to reaching the Top 15 with this single, from which her acclaimed album Call Me Crazy got its title, Womack also earned a Grammy nomination for the song.
Once again, Womack is all alone and headed for the bar. While we can't condone it, lonely and drowning her sorrows are a couple of the ways we like her best (on record, anyway). But rather than indulging in sadness and frustration, she seems resigned to the fact that downing a few glasses of the hard stuff will go down more smoothly than just giving up and moving on, at least until reality sets in. This slow-burning number, penned by singer-actor Waylon Payne (Walk the Line) gave Call Me Crazy one of its most powerful shots.
When it's time to move on, sometimes actual physical distance offers the only relief in site. For Womack, a heartbreak in Dallas means "that town will always be you," so she heads east and gets just beyond the state capital of Arkansas, but still has miles to go when it comes to putting the past behind her. The male voice singing back-up on the tune is that of her ex-husband, Jason Sellers, which lends a hopeful note to this bittersweet hit from 1998's Some Things I Know album.
Released in a pre-9/11 world, this giant crossover hit from 2000 had a simple message which has only grown stronger and more important with time. Whether it's retaining one's childlike wonder, staying open to new possibilities, or just standing by the ocean and contemplating our place in the vast universe, this Mark D. Sanders-Tia Sillers composition not only changed Womack's life, it made an impact on nearly everyone who heard it and it continues to do so. A beautiful performance by Womack helped turn it into a modern pop-country standard.