Womack goes way back with ease.

by Alison Bonaguro
(as seen in The Chicago Tribune , May 22. 2006


If it weren't for the low-rise jeans and black tank top, you would've sworn Dolly Parton had taken the stage of the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan Friday night.

But it was Lee Ann Womack, looking very right now but sounding very back then. You could hear a little bit of Parton, Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn in everything she sang.

With a seven-man band backing her, Womack gave the crowd the honky-tonk hits and bittersweet ballads that made her famous, along with a slew of retro-country tunes off "There's More Where That Came From," which is up for the ACM's album of the year Tuesday night.

Her 18-song set started a little slowly, with older songs such as "Now You See Me, Now You Don't" and "Never Again, Again." Then she let her sultry side shine in the newer and bluesier "One's a Couple," with a solid a cappella finish.

Womack's daughter joined her for background vocals on "You've Got to Talk To Me." It's a stunt more country artists are pulling, as their kids reach an age where they have actual talent beyond being adorable.

But the real star power behind Womack was her fiddle player. From the riff that kicked off "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?" to a hot solo in a cover of Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose," his playing gave off the energy that usually comes from guitarists.

Womack relied on her pure soprano voice to get her through the night. And her personality came out when she wasn't singing. After "I'll Think of a Reason Later," a No. 1 hit about hating your ex's new love, Womack said, "I didn't even want to cut that song. I thought, `That's just silly.'"

Songs off the new album seemed to feel comfortable to the crowd: "I May Hate Myself in the Morning," a twangy booty call for every woman who's ever let a few drinks cloud her potential for regret; and "Twenty Years and Two Husband Ago," which Womack co-wrote about the men and memories she's loved and lost.

At the end, Womack quietly sang the tune that earned her a 2001 Grammy for best country song: "I Hope You Dance." The soulful harmonies intensified the lyrics about taking chances, and refusing to settle.