Bridging country, soul, gospel and blues — Lee Ann Womack reaches new musical heights with her new album ‘The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone’
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Lee Ann Womack
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley
TICKETS: General Admission: Raised Seat $42, Floor Seat $34, VIP Meet & Greet add-on $50
Tickets at: The Center for the Arts Box Office or by calling 530-274-8384 ext 14, BriarPatch Food Coop - 530-272-5333, or tickets online at www.thecenterforthearts.org
Alt-country songstress Lee Ann Womack returns to The Center for the Arts for a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Artists don’t really make albums like Lee Ann Womack’s “The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone” anymore. Albums that seem to exist separate and apart from any external pressures. Albums that possess both a profound sense of history and a clear-eyed vision for the future. Albums that transcend genres while embracing their roots. Albums that evoke a sense of place and of personality so vivid they make listeners feel more like participants in the songs than simply admirers of them.
Anybody who has paid attention to Womack for the past decade or so could see she was headed in this direction. “The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone” — a breathtaking hybrid of country, soul, gospel and blues — comes from Womack’s core.
“I could never shake my center of who I was,” said the East Texas native, Womack. “I’m drawn to rootsy music. It’s what moves me.”
Recorded at Houston’s historic SugarHill Recording Studios and produced by Womack’s husband and fellow Texan, Frank Liddell, “The Lonely, The Lonesome and the Gone” marks the culmination of a journey that began with Womack’s 2005 Country Music Award Album of the Year “There’s More Where That Come From.”
Womack and Liddell took a band to SugarHill, one of the country’s oldest continually operating studio spaces. Womack found the lure of East Texas irresistible.
“I love local things, and I missed local music,” she said. “I grew up in Jacksonville. It was small, so I spent a lot of time dreaming, and about getting out.”
It required only a short leap of logic to view Houston, and specifically SugarHill, as the place to record.
Womack and Liddell found a perfect complement of musicians, players who clicked right away and became a one-headed band.
“I got everybody out of their comfort zone and into a new element,” said Womack. “And it was funky there. This place was not in the least bit slick.”
Womack had brought a handful of songs to record, including the gospel-inspired original “All the Trouble”; the poignant “Mama Lost Her Smile,” in which a daughter sorts through her family’s photographic history looking for clues to a long-secret sorrow; and the love-triangle conversation “Talking Behind Your Back,” which she penned with Dale Dodson and Dean Dillon, the writer of several George Strait classics.
Womack joined a long list of legendary voices irresistibly drawn to Harlan Howard’s “He Called Me Baby,” putting a sultry Southern groove underneath its mix of sensuality and sorrow. On “Long Black Veil,” a tale of betrayal and closely held secrets that became a ’50s classic as recorded by Lefty Frizzell, she taps into a ballad tradition that runs centuries deep.
Womack recorded the album’s final track, a haunting version of George Jones’ “Please Take the Devil Out of Me,” standing on the same gold-star linoleum floor where Jones cut the 1959 original.
“Music down there — including Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and all the way through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — is this huge melting pot,” Womack said. “I love that, and I wanted that in this record. I wanted to make sure it had a lot of soul in it, because real country music has soul, and I wanted to remind people of that.”
In Houston — with all its history, its eccentricity, its diversity and its lack of pretense — those like-minded lunatics found a place where they could flourish.
“We all felt we weren’t going someplace just to make a record,” Womack said. “We were going someplace to make a great record.”
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