Lee Ann Womack

My kind of woman


What: Lee Ann Womack

When: 8 pm Fri., Jul. 22 -23

Where: Skagit Valley Casino Resort, 5984 N. Darrk Lane, Bow

Cost: $48-$54


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

For a time, the song was impossible to escape.

It seemed that every time I turned on Top 40 radio, I would hear the song that began with, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,” and then continued in that vein—“May you never take one single breath for granted,” “I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,” etc.—before it reached its soaring chorus, “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance… I hope you dance… I hope you dance.”

It wasn’t exactly a love song, but it was loving. It sought to inspire, was full of bittersweet optimism and homespun advice, and struck a chord with the millions of people who propelled it to the top of the charts, caused it to go platinum multiple times and helped it win a Grammy. Even now, “I Hope You Dance” can be heard at graduation ceremonies and celebrations, fathers and daughters dance to it at weddings, Maya Angelou once recommended it to Oprah Winfrey (no, really), and it remains a go-to soundtrack for tender moments everywhere.

It certainly didn’t hurt the song’s success that the woman who sang it had a voice that was strong, clear and, most importantly in terms of the song’s continued hold on the sentimental psyche, timeless. That woman was country singer Lee Ann Womack, enjoying that highly sought but rarely attained musical achievement: crossover success.

But the 2000 hit song and the album it came from were aberrations for Womack, who is generally described as a “traditional” country artist, meaning she’s cut from the same cloth that produced the likes of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, to which she is often compared. Sure, she can more than do justice to a pop song like “I Hope You Dance,” but she’s just a visitor to heavy rotation—where she lives is someplace else entirely.

It’s not so much that Womack can’t leave her Southern drawl behind and adopt the more homogenous accent of a pop musician, it’s more that sunny songs steeped in sentimentality aren’t really her bag. Womack would tell you she has an affinity for “losers,” and with song titles like “I’ll Think of a Reason Later,” “Never Again, Again,” “I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” and “Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago,” one gets the impression she never met a mistake she didn’t want to walk right into, eyes wide open. Indeed, her catalogue is rife with songs about drinking, cheating, being cheated on, breaking hearts and having hers broken. All big blonde hair and bad decisions, Womack is a woman constantly on the verge of burning it all down.

In real life, she’s not exactly a shrinking flower either. She once made a list of the crazy things she’d done (just the top 10, not a lifetime reckoning) that included such items as, “Called a certain radio station and asked them to please mail the term ‘country’ back to me, since they clearly weren’t using it.” And, “Spray painted ‘You’ve never even heard country music’ on the side of a Music Row building.” Of course, the kicker has to be, “Got knocked up by the A&R guy” (that one was listed in first place).

In other words, despite the prevalence of “I Hope You Dance” at events that take place inside churches, you won’t necessarily find Womack sitting demurely in a pew. The country singer prefers a different kind of religious experience. She’s been known to say she’s “a lot more turned on by the kind of gospel music that’s coming from a sinner.”

In other words, Womack is my kind of woman.

When Womack plays concerts July 22 and 23 at the Skagit Valley Casino Resort, “I Hope You Dance” will occupy a place of honor during her performance, as it always does. Although her chart-topper is not necessarily emblematic of the rest of her set list, she’s long since made her peace with knowing she’ll sing it at every show for the rest of her life, and that for many fans it acts as an entry point into the rest of her music. She knows full well she can charm them with the sweet stuff, and before they know it, they’ll be knocking back whiskey, drunk-dialing their ex, eyeing the bartender and living in sin.

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