Archives: Lee Ann Womack ‘The Way I’m Livin’’ – Single Review
This article was first published on June 16th, 2014 on forthecountryrecord.com.
It’s been six years since Lee Ann Womack last released an album. Fans rejoiced, therefore, when she announced a couple of months ago that she was gearing up to release a new album ‘The Way I’m Livin’’ on September 23 with renowned bluegrass label Sugar Hill Records. You could argue that since 2008/9 there was not much space for the traditionalism Lee Ann channels, and although 2014 is bro-tastic in what is getting played on the radio and charting well, this new faction of great women creating intelligent, nuanced and deep-rooted country music seems a perfect home for her. There’s already a buzz among fans and industry folk about her return to music, and that has started with the project’s lead single, also the title cut.
As expected, the song is rooted in a bluegrass style, but with a moodier and a rockier vibe than most bluegrass tracks display even nowadays. After all, there’s an electric guitar solo and a full orchestral string section building suspense during the bridge, but this intersperses with real bluegrass influence through the minor key quivering melody and Lee Ann’s trademark vocal style, along with the snappy, twangy acoustic guitar and mandolin parts. It’s a truly interesting and varied track, its unique arrangement really setting it alight and making it something special that fans will be eager to consume. Lee Ann also takes it on really well, singing it with passion and authenticity and able to adapt to that bluegrass style of vocalizing with conviction and free spirit. Of course, it makes sense that she, with the Dolly Parton-esque girlish soprano and natural vibrato, would be great at making this kind of music. She has recorded much of traditional country as well as pop, but this foray into bluegrass suits her well and I will be interested to hear how this plays out on the upcoming album, and whether she sticks to that or incorporates a whole range of influences.
However, the lyrics, will simple in nature, deserve just as much attention as the music. In Robert Johnson ‘Crossroads’ style, her character tells of a meeting of the devil, in which he gives her a sweet drink that he will refill each time he sees her. From that first time she did something bad she couldn’t stop; she cries to her mother about the way she lives, the regret she feels yet how hooked she is on how sinning makes her feel. In contrast to the recently released ‘Bad Girl Phase’ by Sunny Sweeney which celebrates being a bad girl and letting loose, ‘The Way I’m Livin’’ casts a negative light on the drinking and partying all night, throwing a Biblical context around the song and making it seem a whole lot darker. This is emphasized by the musical aspects, which as previously mentioned give it a moody vibe and build up the drama with strings and grating electric guitar. Although Lee Ann rarely goes into detail about the sinning in question, we are made to feel bad for the girl locked in the devil’s power, addicted to presumably alcohol of some sort, if we’re to take the sweet drink literally. It’s a powerful lyric that brings our own morality into question.
It becomes clear why Lee Ann signed with Sugar Hill in the first place. The album that is due for September was originally announced in 2012 under MCA Nashville, but whether they decided the material wasn’t for them or Lee Ann just wasn’t happy with the way things were run, she split from them soon after and fans have heard little since. No doubt signing with the new label may well have influenced her approach to some of the tracks, perhaps with new ones added or different recordings of older songs intended for the original incarnation of the album. Either way, ‘The Way I’m Livin’’ is a great song and makes me look forward to the new album even more.