Friday, February 10, 2006

Back in time

I care barely a whit about the Grammys, but I'm a teensy bit disappointed that Lee Ann Womack didn't win Female Country Vocal Performance for "I May Hate Myself in the Morning," a track on her lustrous CD There's More Where That Came From.

Last year Charles Hughes extolled There's More Where That Came From, and I wanted to believe him, especially because the album cover is so beautiful -- it's every great country record that came out in 1967. But Womack's putrid 2000 self-help anthem "I Hope You Dance" is one my least favorite things in the world, the epitome of all that is wrong with country music today. When she sang it in the warm-up slot at Willie Nelson's otherwise terrific Ravinia show three years ago, I wanted to crawl into a hole (unlike the woman in front of me, who was moved to lift up her arms like an evangelical).

But There's More Where That Came From is a very focused, finely wrought piece of countrypolitan classicism. The arrangements are lush with vocal harmonies and weeping pedal steel, and you never hear songwriting like this on mainstream Nashville releases anymore. The two standout cuts, the title track (by Odie Blackmon) and the Grammy-nominated one (by Chris Dubois and Chris Stapleton), are wry-sad ballads with my favorite kind of lyrical hook: the everyday phrase turned on its head, to devastating effect. "There's more where that came from," Womack sings sadly -- meaning, in the context of a motel tryst, more passion, but also more infidelity, more guilt, more shame. The performance makes me gasp.

What's missing from the record, I think, is a honkytonk shitkicker of a fast song. The album is very mellow and could use just one lively tune, something along the lines of Tammy Wynette's "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad." Still, the secret hidden track, a faithful remake of George Jones' midtempo classic "A Girl I Used to Know," is a step in the right direction. But why a hidden track? Must you closet your Possum fandom, Lee Ann?

Regardless, all props to Emmylou Harris, who prevailed in the Grammy category.

No comments: