On her ninth studio album, Womack returns to her pen, co-writing six of the album’s 14 tracks. She also shares some of the most confident vocals in her career, while still finding space for that delicate quiver she first introduced to the world 20 years ago.
Anybody more familiar with Womack may be a little surprised by the album’s artwork. In it, a forlorn Womack stares wistfully, cigarette hanging between her loosened fingers. A faint steam of smoke escapes her mouth.
Womack does not, in fact, smoke. But in an interview with People, she explains why she went with the imagery for the cover of The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone. “Have you ever seen those characters sitting at a bar alone and you just think, ‘I wonder what’s going through his mind?'” Womack muses in the interview. “That’s just sort of the feeling that we wanted to capture.”
By the album’s third track, an inspired cover of Harlan Howard’s “He Called Me Baby,” we get the exact feeling what’s going through our protagonist’s mind. Womack’s scorching vocal hits the mic hard, creating a bit of natural distortion that eventually gives way to softer sentiments on songs like “Mama Lost Her Smile” and one of the most unique covers of “Long Black Veil” yet.
In 2014, Womack returned to the scene with The Way I’m Livin’. A phenomenal album in its own right, that collection of tunes featured entirely outside perspectives. But with her latest, Womack once again embraced her own literary voice and much as her own physical one.
The result is a cohesive collection of melancholia. Songs like “All The Trouble” and “Wicked” swirl with a sense of poise and swagger. In the former she sings of not needing anymore trouble, in the latter we find all the ways she seems to create it for herself.
Sandwiched in between are well curated songs like Brent Cobb’s “Shine On Rainy Day” and the undeniable toe tapper “Bottom Of The Barrel.” She chose to finish the record with a cover of George Jones’ “Take The Devil Out of Me,” a choice that has as much to do with the location as anything.
Lee Ann Womack and husband/producer Frank Liddell returned to Sugar Hill Studios in Houston to capture her latest. It’s where George Jones cut some of his hits, and precisely why they chose to cut their own version of his song to end the record.
Womack explained the decision to go back to Texas for the latest record to the New York Times. “Walkin’ around the halls of that studio, you don’t hear people talking about the charts,” Womack says. “You don’t hear people talking about business meetings. It’s a totally different vibe. It’s just music.”
And it just so happens to be an environment that helped Womack release some of her best work so far.