When “The View” called Grammy-winner Lee Ann Womack to appear on a special show honoring the military, she was scheduled for a vacation with her family. But considering the show – where she’d appeared after receiving her 2015 Best Country Album Grammy nomination for The Way I’m Livin’ – she asked her family if she could take a two-day detour to Manhattan before meeting them in Montana for their camping trip.
“You plan these things with your family so far in advance, and everyone starts looking forward to it,” says the East Texan. “Then you realize all these folks have been looking forward to being reunited as a family, and what else would you do? Thankfully, Frank and Anna share my feelings about families who’ve been separated being reunited.”
Womack literally rebooked, rescheduled and returned to New York to perform a very intimate version of Hayes Carll’s vintage country-feeling “Chances Are” for the audience, many of whom had been brought in for this very special show. When she finished the ballad, there was a moment of silence, then the crowd erupted into applause; ultimately turning the cheers into a standing ovation.
“I wasn’t really sure if it was going to go over,” says the 6-time Country Music Association Award winner. “I know how much I love classic country music, but it’s not for everyone. Then when I finished and saw people’s faces, there wasn’t a person sitting there who couldn’t identify with what the song’s about: making mistakes, or decisions that didn’t work out – and still wanting to hang onto that hope, because that hope is all there is.”
Womack understands. Stepping away from the mainstream record business, she’s spent the last year supporting The Way I’m Livin’, a stripped back progressive country album featuring songs from Grammy-nominee Adam Wright, Julie Miller, Chris Knight, Bruce Robison and Neil Young. The Wall Street Journal was the first to recognize her passion, writing “she sounds as if she’s making up for lost time.”
The only country album on Esquire’s Top Albums of 2014, Livin’ received a rare four star (out of four) review from USA Today, while Rolling Stone offered it “feels like something Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings would have crafted back in the Seventies.” Spin was more succinct: “The best of her career.”
Beyond the Grammy nomination, Womack received two Americana Music Association nominations – Artist and Album of the Year – and two CMT Video Music Award nominations – Female Video (“The Way I’m Livin’”) and CMT Performance (“Crossroads” with John Legend). Just as importantly, she found herself recording with Dr. Ralph Stanley, part of the Fairfield Four and McCrary Sisters’ PBS “Rock My Soul” gospel special with Lucinda Williams, Amos Lee and Buddy Miller, part of tribute shows for Emmylou Harris in D.C. and Waylon Jennings in Austin and co-hosted the International Bluegrass Music Awards with Jerry Douglas.
You can see the performance and an interview about her incredible year August 11 on ABC’s “The View.” Check your local listings for air time.