Lee Ann Womack and her songwriters know that when you're teetering on the precipice of bad judgment, ready to swan dive into some sin or other, you're not obsessing much about guilt. Maybe there's a bit of initial worry on Lee Ann's newest CD, but there's also a lot of that arm-swinging, butterfly-tummied giddiness that accompanies a free fall into a forbidden man's trousers. Then afterward the fun is complemented by a heaving amount of adult regret that only prescription medication, legal action, and a calendar full of Sundays can attempt to extinguish.
I say "adult" because, lyrically at least, many of these songs take the generic bitterness that generally passes for complex relationship drama and makes it human. The characters in these songs are clearly lifers--menthol-smoking near-divorcées who can give the kids a ride home from soccer practice and still get dinner on the table. They live not for their careers, but to know that someone gives a shit. And yet no one who wrongs them is portrayed as a villain or an asshole. Nope, the guys who walk out or make ill-timed booty calls are just flawed promise breakers who know that no lie is more believable than the one you tell yourself.
The arrangements here are conservative and stark, making the lyrics that much more intense. Fiddle strings and steel guitar introduce themselves, then kindly fall back, letting Lee Ann's honeydew voice do the heavy lifting. This is not '90s midriff-bearing stadium country, nor is it 17th-wave honky-tonk that's legit in a Gretchen Wilson way. Womack's songs are just as simple and old-school as many of her turns of phrase. On "Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago," she sings, "I remember when he took my hand/And said 'I do'/And the kitchen I was standin' in/When he said 'I'm through.'"
In a way, this is a good dead-of-winter CD, something you might play during a bright but frigid solo drive down to Red Wing. It's the perfect soundtrack for one of those days when you're questioning every relationship you've ever been in--even the good ones.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment