Lee Ann Womack scored her contemporary country music critical breakthrough with I Hope You Dance in 2000. Almost universally acclaimed, it showcased the singer's exceptionally wide range. While her platinum-selling self-titled debut made the critics take notice -- as usual in this genre, only underscoring what country music programmers, DJs, and listeners already knew -- and her sophomore issue, Some Things I Know, multiplied her fan base, I Hope You Dance was cited as a "career album," meaning that it wouldn't get much better. The pundits were wrong. Something Worth Leaving Behind cemented Womack's place in the country music pantheon by pushing her own boundaries as an artist further than ever before. Her seemingly effortless cruise through honky tonk, country-pop ballads, and searing midtempo "message" numbers serves her well on this wildly adventurous collection of songs. Stepping into the producer's chair for the first time -- along with longtime producers Mark Wright and Frank Liddell and newcomers Matt Serletic and Mike McCarthy -- Womack fills the album with some off-center, nearly alt-country cuts by Bruce Robison (the gorgeous ballad "Blame It on Me") and a pair by the now reclusive Julie Miller (the poignant "Orphan Train" and rollicking funky gospel tune "I Need You"), who also sings backup on the set. Added to this are tracks by mainstream successes Monty Powell ("When You Gonna Run to Me"), Gretchen Peters (the stellar and anthemic "I Saw Your Light"), and Brett Beavers (two versions of the title track) -- who accounted for the singles here. But it isn't just the mix of tunes. It's the performers themselves. Producer and guitar ace Kenny Greenberg handled the arrangements; former Joe Ely and John Mellencamp guitar slinger David Grissom is here and also contributed a tune; another former Mellencamp ace turned country session musician Kenny Aronoff mans the drum kit; and Greg Leisz, master of lap steel, pedal steel, and Dobro (or anything with strings called a guitar) is here as well -- as are many others. Womack nailed it on Something Worth Leaving Behind. It may not have sold quite as well as her previous offerings, but record biz folks were happy just the same, and it achieved an even higher level of acclaim than any of her preceding records, eking out a place in the CD collections of fans of rock, pop, and even adult alternative music in the process. Finally, more than any of her previous recordings, Something Worth Leaving Behind gave her the confidence and authority necessary to record her masterpiece, 2005's There's More Where That Came From.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek