Lee Ann Womack: There’s More Where That Came From
Sound/Style: light, traditional-leaning country
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) -- For decades now, there’s been a recurring controversy in country music circles: namely, that the pop-styled country designed for mass consumption has not only strayed too far from its traditional moorings, but that its popularity has bumped country’s revered older practitioners onto the sidelines. Meanwhile, opponents of old school country complain that the music’s themes – like drinkin’ and cheatin’ and hurtin’ – have become shopworn and cliched (mind you, not that anyone’s completely stopped using them). Lee Ann Womack’s latest album, a semi-throwback to country of yesteryear called There’s More Where That Came From, proves that pedal steel guitar can still raise neck hairs and that classic country subject matter can in fact function as miniature morality plays. There isn’t one of us who hasn’t struggled in some way with temptation, whether it’s to run off with your best friend’s wife or to run a red light at three in the morning – it’s merely a matter of degree. So, when Womack applies her potent soprano voice to lyrics about struggling with the lures of illicit love – songs in which her characters are clearly not at ease – this is something from which anyone can learn. Committing sin destroys peace, no matter how much momentary pleasure it may offer. Such is the case on "I May Hate Myself In The Morning" and, in particular, the title cut. The song’s adulterous protagonist begs God to take her mind off the object of desire but surrenders to her weakness when she confides "the worst part of doin’ what I never should have done/is that I know there’s more where that came from." If it appears scandalous to air this kind of intimate laundry, the moral struggle contained within the song at least sets it above modern audio and video fare that promotes a no-guilt approach to romantic rule-bending.
It isn’t possible, though, to argue this case with every song on the record. "What I Miss About Heaven" contains a woman’s confession that she misses only her ex-lover’s passionate touch, and not the "innocent stuff – holdin’ hands in church and prayin’ together." An under-loved wife, waiting silently for her man to discern the cause of her dissatisfaction, leaves home without either a word or any overt attempt to express her grievances in "He Oughta Know That By Now." Mistreated though she may be, she buys into a victim role by which she justifies her departure. As the record unfolds, though, it forms a redemptive arc that brings closure and the promise of spiritual growth.
This trajectory moves through phases such as the elusive search for contentment on the achingly bittersweet "Happiness," which offers sage advice, but only about where not to look. On "Twenty Years And Two Husbands Ago," old regrets are resolved and the song’s divorced single mom glimpses God’s faithfulness in her sudden realization that "with all the wrong turns I’ve made, I’m right where I should be." Lastly, there’s an admission of frailties and afflictions that begins to break down walls in "Stubborn (Psalm 151)." (Bonus points for those who knew the Psalms actually stop at number 150 without having to check like I just did.) After the track reveals a disturbing abundance of stubbornness and inner demons residing within a home, the person dwelling inside poignantly adds "and there’s no one here but me." The verse which concludes the disc leaves the listener with a sense of hope: "there’s a molecule of faith in this room/and even though it’s much too small to see/If I have the courage to believe/I’ll find the one who left it here for me."
The retro concept evident in both the CDs 1970s-styled design and its full but subdued arrangements doesn’t completely extend to its predominantly mid-tempo songs, most of which are adaptable to contemporary country radio. As was the case in the era she seeks to partly recreate, though, Womack offers strong and emotive performances of songs that embrace real life topics on There’s More Where That Came From.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.