Lee Ann Womack released her first album in 1997, but it was 2000’s I Hope You Dance that sent her career stratospheric. The song was a worldwide hit and catapulted her to stardom. She’s since become a critical darling for her traditional sound, blended with contemporary and occasional pop elements. Her latest album, The Lonely, The Lonesome And The Gone, was released in 2017, and last night she performed songs from the record at London’s Union Chapel as part of her All The Trouble tour.
Flanked by her guitar players Ethan and Jonathan, Womack opened her performance with her version of Buddy Miller’s Does My Ring Burn Your Finger. The traditional song was full of passion and power and showed off Womack’s wonderful vocal tone. You could feel the yearning in every word she sang, and the crowd showed their appreciation with a volley of applause when she’d finished.
Throughout her performance Womack mixed in tracks from across her 20-year career along with tunes from her latest album. Whether it was the wordplay and detailed imagery of A Little Past Little Rock, the rocky, defiant All The Trouble or the moving, intimate Mama Lost Her Smile, the set showed Womack’s range off to full effect. She also included a couple of covers, including a belting rendition of Buddy Miller’s Don’t Listen To The Rain and an absolutely stunning gospel-influenced version of Lefty Frizell’s Long Black Veil.
However, what pulled the whole performance together was Womack’s absolutely stunning voice. By turns bluesy, smooth, sweet and rich, she had a wonderful old-school sound to her voice which put me in mind of classic country artists like Dolly Parton. She also showed off some impressive vocal runs on songs such as the soulful, warm Solitary Thinkin’. The simple approach to the show meant her vocals stood out, particularly on the soaring, twangy Sunday, and made the whole performance completely mesmerising.
Throughout the show Womack chatted to the crowd about the stories behind her songs and her life growing up in East Texas, as well as cracking jokes. She also encouraged them to clap along, especially during the latter half of the show on the bittersweet Last Call and The Way I’m Livin’. Often she could be seen dancing along to her guitarists’ instrumental sections and it was great to see her getting lost in the music.
One of my highlights of the set was I May Hate Myself In The Morning. The song, about a woman who goes back to a lover despite knowing he’s no good for her, beautifully captures the conflict and raw emotion of its lead character and showed why Womack is an incredibly skilled vocalist and songwriter. Whilst in the wrong hand it could have been too overwhelming, her subdued approach gave the track much more impact and was utterly spine-tingling.
Womack closed her set with I Hope You Dance, which drew a ripple of applause as it began. The gentle, lilting version felt like a departure from the rest of the set but was another of my favourite moments. It was incredibly moving and emotional – I’ll admit to wiping away a tear midway through – and gave Womack a chance to deliver some incredibly controlled notes. The crowd roared their approval at the end, rising to their feet as one as she thanked them and took her bows.
For her encore, Womack performed two covers, starting with her version of George Jones’ You’re Still On My Mind. The song’s jaunty melody got the crowd clapping along, whilst contrasting with the downbeat lyrics, and highlighted Womack’s ability to take a classic song and put her own spin on it. She followed that with an upbeat spin on Lord I Hope This Day Is Good, originally by Don Williams. The song showed off the depth, delicacy and drawl in her voice and had the crowd singing with her, before they gave her another standing ovation.
Overall Lee Ann Womack delivered a gorgeous, timeless set of songs that showed off her wonderful vocals and ability to tell a story. Her performance drew on influences from across the spectrum of country and Americana, and she was very warm and engaging throughout. It’s not hard to tell why she’s one of the most well-regarded singer-songwriters on the country scene today, and I only hope we don’t have to wait too long before she comes back to the UK again.
Set list: 1. Does My Ring Burn Your Finger (Buddy Miller cover) 2. Never Again, Again 3. Don’t Listen To The Wind (Buddy Miller cover) 4. Mama Lost Her Smile 5. A Little Past Little Rock 6. Solitary Thinkin’ 7. Chances Are 8. All The Trouble 9. Long Black Veil (Lefty Frizell cover) 10. Last Call 11. Sunday 12. I May Hate Myself In The Morning 13. The Way I’m Livin’ 14. I Hope You Dance 15. You’re Still On My Mind (George Jones cover) 16. Lord I Hope This Day Is Good (Don Williams cover) Performance date: 7th September 2018