After spending several years as a professional songwriter, Lee Ann Womack became one of the breakout contemporary country stars of 1997 with her eponymous debut album. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Texas, Womack became infatuated with music at an early age, which is appropriate for the daughter of a disc jockey. Her father often took her to work, where she picked out records to play on the air. Following high-school graduation, she attended South Plains Junior College in Levelland, Texas. The school was one of the first in the country to offer degrees in country and bluegrass music, and Womack soon became a member of the college's band, Country Caravan. She traveled throughout the South and California with Country Caravan and stayed with the group until she left South Plains to study music business at Belmont University in Nashville. That led to an internship in MCA's A&R department.
By 1990, she had settled in Nashville, where she married and became a mother. She continued to attend Belmont, as well as write songs. Soon, she began singing on songwriting demos and performing her own showcase concerts. Eventually, Womack was spotted by Tree Publishing at one of her showcases. In 1995, the company signed her after listening to one of her original demos. While she was a staff writer at Tree, she co-wrote songs with Ed Hill, Bill Anderson, Sam Hogin, and Mark Wright. Her songs were recorded by Anderson and Ricky Skaggs. Within a year after signing to Tree, Womack signed to Decca Records as a recording artist. Wright was hired as the producer for Womack's debut album, which comprised both original material and songs written by professional songwriters. Mark Chesnutt, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, and Tony Brown all appeared on the record, which created a buzz in the industry.
Lee Ann Womack's eponymous album was released in May of 1997, and shortly after its release, it reached the Top Ten on the country chart. I Hope You Dance followed in mid-2000. Something Worth Leaving Behind appeared in mid-2002, and it was a sure fit for Womack to move into the country mainstream for good. A Season for Romance was released before the year's end, but Womack was itching for the stage. In early 2003, Womack earned a small part on the CBS drama The District. She also earned two Grammy nods: one for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for Something Worth Leaving Behind and Best Vocal Collaboration (Country) for her duet with Willie Nelson on "Mendocino County Line." Call Me Crazy, Womack's sixth studio album, appeared in October of 2008. Despite debuting at four on the Billboard country charts and boasting the hit "Last Call," the record underperformed.
A new single called "There Is a God" appeared in 2009 but its middling appearance on the charts — it went no further than 32 — meant that the accompanying seventh studio album never materialized. Over the next few years, Womack made some cameos — she sang with Alan Jackson on his 2010 cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" — but was largely quiet. She split with MCA Nashville in 2012 and, two years later, she signed with the independent Sugar Hill Records, which released The Way I'm Livin' — a record produced by her husband, Frank Liddell — in September 2014. Three years later, Womack signed with ATO Records and released The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone, which saw her co-authoring six of the album's 14 tracks. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine