Lee Ann Womack is a gifted singer that has been the victim of her own success to some degree. Her breakthrough hit I Hope You Dance conquered the charts in 2000 and Lee Ann hasn’t ever really matched it since. That’s not to say that the material she’s released has been sub-par, it’s more indicative of how well-loved that song was that it eclipsed everything else she’s done. It’s been 6 years since Lee Ann’s last album release, 2008’s Call Me Crazy which peaked at number 4 on the US Country album chart. Now she’s back with her seventh studio album The Way I’m Livin’.
The Way I’m Livin’ is a collection of songs that represent where Lee Ann is at this point in her life and career. The album was due to be released a couple of years back but a label change caused delays. For the most part the album was recorded live with Lee Ann’s husband Frank Liddell taking on production duties. Sonically The Way I’m Livin’ explores a variety of country music and includes covers of songs by Neil Young (Out on the Weekend) and Hayes Carll (Chances Are).
The album opens with Prelude: Fly which is an acoustic country ballad that instantly reminds you why you fell in love with Lee Ann’s voice in the first place. She sounds stunning and the little riffs in her voice are cause for goosebumps. Prelude: Fly sets the album up nicely and after a couple of listens its clear what a beautiful and heartfelt record this is.
Lee Ann possesses the kind of voice that can sing pretty much anything. She showcases her abilities impressively across The Way I’m Livin’ moving effortlessly from the gentler tracks such as Don’t Listen To The Wind to the grittier country of All His Saints. The title track gives the best of both worlds starting off with sparse instrumentation before opening up the soundscape with Lee Ann’s vocal driving through the melody.
Elsewhere on the album Lee Ann throws back to the good old day of country music with the whimsical Sleeping With The Devil, lets her hair down on the uptempo Tomorrow Night in Baltimore, and Same Kind of Different is about two people finding kindred spirits within one another.
The moment on the album that Lee Ann shines the brightest is on piano ballad Send It on Down. The song is a desperate plea for help from a woman battling alcohol addiction and not feeling good enough in her own skin. Lee Ann’s interpretation of the lyrics delivers an emotional under-current to the song. It’s one of those special moments on the record that you realise you’re listening to a truly remarkable vocalist.
Lee Ann may have been out of the industry for a while but she’s coming back swinging. The Way I’m Livin’ is one of the best records she’s recorded, if not the best, and she’s never sounded better. The album doesn’t have any filler on at all and every song has its place. The Way I’m Livin’ is an understated and beautiful record that explores the more difficult moments in life and it showcases Lee Ann reclaiming her rightful place in country music.