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Flashback: Watch Lee Ann Womack’s Stunning ‘The Fool’ in 1997

Texas singer’s pure country debut album turns 20 on May 13th

In 1997, a year during which Shania Twain, LeAnn Rimes and Martina McBride were among the women hitting the country charts with pop-influenced tunes, a newcomer from Jacksonville, Texas, was about to earn raves (and even comparisons to fellow Texan George Strait) for her debut album that kept things decidedly country. Released on May 13th, 1997, Lee Ann Womack was awash in traditional fiddle and steel guitar and led by Womack’s spectacular voice, itself a combination of Tammy Wynette’s tears, Loretta Lynn’s drawl and Alison Krauss’ purity.

Womack was born to a schoolteacher mother and disc jockey father, and studied at SouthPlainsCollege, which was one of the first in the U.S. to offer a degree in the fields of bluegrass and country music. Other famous alums include Waylon Jennings and the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines. Womack later studied at Nashville‘s BelmontUniversity and went on to an internship in the A&R department at MCA Records. She would eventually sign with that label’s sister company, Decca.

Produced by Mark Wright, who had previously helmed LPs for traditionalists Mark Chesnutt and Clint Black, among others, Womack’s debut single from the LP, “Never Again Again,” had been issued in March 1997, and while its music video generated plenty of buzz at CMT, and earned the singer her first invitation to perform on the Grand Ole Opry, there was enough reluctance at country radio to cause the record to stall at Number 23. The follow-up, however, a weeping, piano ballad called “The Fool,” climbed to Number Two on the Billboard chart, as did Womack’s next hit, the more upbeat and contemporary “You’ve Got to Talk to Me.” Womack performed both as a guest on the Nashville Network’s Prime Time Country in November 1997. Two months later, her debut album was certified gold, for sales in excess of 500,000. At the end of January, she won an American Music Award and, in April 1998, took home her first ACM honor as Top New Female Artist.

While Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” would become a monster crossover hit in 2000, its success was something of a double-edged sword, which led to the critical and commercial failure of 2002’s Something Worth Leaving Behind. Following a greatest-hits set and a Christmas LP, Womack rebounded in 2005 with the raw, honest There’s More Where That Came From, winning the CMA Album of the Year as well as Single of the Year for “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.” Womack’s terrific 2015 set The Way I’m Livin’, her eighth studio record, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album.

Aubrie Sellers, Womack’s daughter with ex-husband Jason Sellers, released her rock-and-country-influenced debut album New City Blues in January 2016. 

In This Article: Lee Ann Womack

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