Lee Ann Womack

The Way I'm Livin'

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Lee Ann Womack began recording a sequel for MCA Nashville after 2008's Call Me Crazy, but none of its advance singles stuck, leading the singer to shift direction for her seventh studio album. This album didn't appear until 2014, not on Universal but on Sugar Hill/Welk, who picked up The Way I'm Livin', an album that effectively reboots her career. Produced by Frank Liddell -- Womack's husband but more notably the producer behind recent hit records by Miranda Lambert, Pistol Annies, David Nail, and the Eli Young Band -- The Way I'm Livin' finds the veteran singer intentionally abandoning the chart race for deeply felt intimacy. Womack didn't write any of the songs on The Way I'm Livin' -- a collection of writers ranging from Bruce Robison, Kenny Price, Julie Miller, and Mindy Smith to Hayes Carll and Neil Young bear credits -- but the material is so carefully selected, the album plays personally. Naturally, this is a testament to Womack's skills as a singer -- she's never been more nuanced, sliding into the lyrics, laying back sometimes, leaning into the lyrics elsewhere, all the twists giving the songs an earthiness that grounds the record -- but also to Liddell's lithe production, which never draws attention to itself. The Way I'm Livin' maintains an easy, mellow vibe but it contains plenty of sly, unexpected turns; the title track is dressed in sympathetic strings, "Chances Are" glides on a steamy Southern soul crawl, "Sleeping with the Devil" echoes with the memories of forgotten country classics. There's pleasure within the sounds Womack and Liddell make with their crack supporting musicians and the songs resonate emotionally, their themes of love, regret, and maturity enhancing each other. In that sense, The Way I'm Livin' plays like a classic album: it's a record where the sum is greater than the individual parts.

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