'The Lonely, The Lonesome And The Gone' Is an Ode To The Underdogs Lee Ann Womack's new album is packed full of classic country music characters. Womack tells NPR's Lauren Frayer that she recorded it in Houston because going back home fills her with hope
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'The Lonely, The Lonesome And The Gone' Is an Ode To The Underdogs

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'The Lonely, The Lonesome And The Gone' Is an Ode To The Underdogs

'The Lonely, The Lonesome And The Gone' Is an Ode To The Underdogs

'The Lonely, The Lonesome And The Gone' Is an Ode To The Underdogs

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  • Transcript

Lee Ann Womack's new album is packed full of classic country music characters. Womack tells NPR's Lauren Frayer that she recorded it in Houston because going back home fills her with hope

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THE TROUBLE")

LEE ANN WOMACK: (Singing) I got all the trouble I'm ever gonna need.

LAUREN FRAYER, HOST:

Lee Ann Womack's new album, "The Lonely, The Lonesome, & The Gone," is packed full of classic country music characters. It's an ode to the heartbroken, the resolute and the underdog.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL THE TROUBLE")

WOMACK: (Singing) It's hard being little. It's hard being small. Make it up that mountain, you're standing big and tall. Well, the trouble with the mountain, there's a million ways to fall.

FRAYER: "The Lonely, The Lonesome, & The Gone" is out now, and Lee Ann Womack joins me now from Nashville. Welcome to you.

WOMACK: Aw, Thank you. Thanks for having me.

FRAYER: So you are in Nashville now, but you went home to your native Texas to record this album. Why is that? Was there something you wanted to go home to, something you were searching for?

WOMACK: Always. I was born and raised in east Texas, and I still have a house there, and I'm back and forth all the time. But I - when I was growing up there, I was full of hope and dreams and it felt good. You know, I was talking to somebody the other night - you know, the dreaming about anything is the best part, whether you're planning a trip or a vacation or whatever. The - it's the planning and the thinking about it, you know, that's the best part. And so every time I go back to east Texas, I feel like that again. I feel hopeful, and I wanted to feel like that when I was making this record.

FRAYER: What did you learn about country music by being in Nashville and then going home and doing this album in Texas?

WOMACK: Well, when I was growing up there, my dad worked at a country radio station, and I had my idea of what country music was. And growing up, the first 17 years, I didn't travel a lot, I didn't get out a whole lot. And so I came to Nashville and realized that what I thought was country music is not necessarily everybody else's idea and so - of country music. And so that was a real shock to me, and I sort of started at that point, started trying to marry the two ideas and two worlds. And so going back to record there, I was able to I think bring a lot of what I learned in Nashville and from traveling and everything back to my home and my home state of mind as well.

FRAYER: And your dad was a radio deejay, and he played some of those old country records for you as a child. What were your favorites?

WOMACK: Oh, goodness, well, George Jones has always been my favorite singer. I just think he's one of the greatest singers ever in any genre any kind of music just because he sort of created a way of singing, and hardly anybody does that.

FRAYER: You actually pay tribute to George Jones on this album. It's one of a couple covers on the album. Let's listen to a little bit of "Take The Devil Out Of Me."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE THE DEVIL OUT OF ME")

WOMACK: (Singing) I've traveled far down this lonesome road. The devil, he's got me bent down so low. I just found out where I want to be. Oh, Jesus, please - please take the devil out of me.

FRAYER: So this is actually a cover of "Please Take The Devil Out Of Me," which George Jones released in 1959. That was one of the records your dad played for you. What did you want to bring to your own version?

WOMACK: I didn't even know if it was going to be on the record. We were, you know, - the studio, SugarHill, where we recorded this record in Houston, was where Jones did all of his early hits, where he cut that song. And so I stood in the same spot where he stood when he did it, so it was sort of just to make me happy. It was just an off-the-cuff thing. And my guitar player, Ethan Ballinger, just happened to know the song, and he said, you know, I've always wanted to hear you sing this song. And we literally just threw up the mics and did it on the spot. And so I didn't even know it was going to make the record. I wasn't really trying to do anything except have fun (laughter).

FRAYER: That's always how it turns out the best, though, right?

WOMACK: Yeah, I think you're right, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE THE DEVIL OUT OF ME")

WOMACK: (Singing) You took the devil out of me.

FRAYER: That is a fun song, but I have to say, this album is pretty sad. It's called "The Lonely, The Lonesome, & The Gone." There are songs called the "End Of The World," the "Bottom Of The Barrel," "Mama Lost Her Smile." Is that country music? Is that a return to just those themes that are just breaking your heart?

WOMACK: Well, you know, country music was always - back in the day, you know, it spoke to the working man. It spoke to people who were struggling. It was sort of a form of blues music. And so I miss that about country music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAMA LOST HER SMILE")

WOMACK: (Singing) Somewhere in the summer, back in 1982, Daddy took a job he found...

It's funny because it is sad. A lot of those songs are sad, but it makes me - when I hear Vern Gosdin sing a really, really country song, it makes me feel like, wow, somebody else has been there, too. And so I don't feel as alone. So it's healing in that way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAMA LOST HER SMILE")

WOMACK: (Singing) But you don't take pictures of the bad times. We only want to remember...

FRAYER: Your daughter, who I think just graduated high school, plays the guitar on this album, Annalise Liddell, and your husband produced the album. What was it like to collaborate with your family back in the place where you grew up, you know, all making music together?

WOMACK: It really was a family affair. My parents came to the studio. My sister-in-law was there...

FRAYER: Oh, wow.

WOMACK: ...Which doesn't happen, you know. They don't stop by the studio when we're a thousand miles away, so it really was a family affair.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEE ANN WOMACK SONG, "TALKING BEHIND YOUR BACK")

FRAYER: You arrived in Nashville in the 1990s. You had crossover hits onto the pop charts. How's the sound of country music changed because of the industry of Nashville?

WOMACK: I don't think country - country music has changed. I think what gets marketed as country music and what gets called country music, Music Row Nashville, commercial stuff out of this town - all of that has changed. But country music - and this is one of the things I was showing with this record is that country music is country music (laughter). It hasn't changed, and it is an art form. I mean, it is. And it's an American form of music, and it is a roots music, you know. And so it really became a commercialized product, and I miss the roots part of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TALKING BEHIND YOUR BACK")

WOMACK: (Singing) We went out for drinks last night...

FRAYER: Lee Ann Womack - her new album is "The Lonely, The Lonesome, & The Gone." Thank you so much.

WOMACK: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TALKING BEHIND YOUR BACK")

WOMACK: (Singing) I had to get it off my chest, so I'll called thinking it'd be best if you knew.

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