The Way I’m Livin’
Sugar Hill

Given the freedom to finally make exactly the record she wanted to make after years of coloring inside the mainstream lines, certified country superstar Lee Ann Womack earns her Americana credentials with flying colors on her first new record in six years. To call the overall excellent The Way I’m Livin’ the best record she’s ever made would be a disservice to both her exquisite 2005 classic-country throwback, There’s More Where That Came From, and 2002’s I Hope You Dance, which had a lot more going for it than just its undeniably moving smash title track; but it represents a key turning point in her artistic journey that may well prove to be the defining moment of her career. It’s telling that Womack, who in theory could have used this record as a platform to showcase her own songwriter’s voice, be it solo or with assists from any number of A-List Americana friends, instead takes a cue from Emmylou Harris and plays to her greatest strength by shining her peerless soprano on a lov- ingly curated playlist of tunes already road-tested by some of the best young (and some not so young) performing songwriters in the field. It’s a true “for the sake of the song” move that pays off in spades via gorgeous interpretations of Chris Knight’s “Send It On Down,” Hayes Carll’s “Chances Are” (which despite its Americana roots is arguably one of the purest sounding true country songs she’s ever sung), and especially Adam Hood’s “Same Kind of Different,” which Womack sings mostly a cappella or with backing so subtle its more felt than heard. The arrangements throughout are a key part of the magic here, with Womack’s producer-husband Frank Liddell capturing the intimate sound of a singer and band playing together as one. Regardless of whatever the future holds in store for Womack in terms of commercial and chart success, The Way I’m Livin’ hits the artistic bulls eye. — RICHARD SKANSE

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