Originally created 09/05/97

She's country; he's kinda

Clay Walker is the guy with the fistful of platinum albums. Lee Ann Womack is the rookie in search of her first.

But when Ms. Womack opens for Mr. Walker at Fort Gordon tonight, she's the one more likely to conjure up images of the old days.

Ms. Womack has been hailed as a traditionalist in a time when many top country artists, including Mr. Walker, sound more like pop stars.

How do the two go together?

"Maybe you get a little bit of everything," Ms. Womack said. "With our group you get more of the shuffles-and-swing kind of thing."

Ms. Womack, who grew up listening to artists like Bob Wills, Buck Owens, Ray Price and George Jones, has a voice that has been compared to Dolly Parton's. Still, she says she isn't trying to lead any revival.

"I didn't really set out to be the big country comeback kid," Ms. Womack said. "I set out to make hopefully what was the best country music I could make."

Ms. Womack's singles from her self-titled debut album are lovesick, cry-in-your-sweet-tea kind of ballads. Never, Never Again is about a woman who keeps getting her heart broken by the same guy but can't learn to say no to him. The Fool is about a woman in love with a man who still loves another woman. Her album has been on the Billboard magazine country charts for 14 weeks, rising to the No. 9 position in July.

The album also includes Make Memories With Me, a duet with Mark Chesnutt, and Am I the Only Thing That You've Done Wrong, a song she co-wrote with a good friend, Billy Joe Foster, and former husband Jason Sellers.

Ms. Womack, 30, said her divorce didn't change her approach to work, but maybe she can deliver her songs more believably since she's had some more life experience.

So many of the characters in her songs carry a torch, it's no surprise to hear that she wants to take a shot at being a 1940s-style torch singer. When she's not listening to country, she enjoys the music of Dean Martin, Nat "King" Cole and Harry Connick Jr.

Ms. Womack finds herself called an overnight success, but she labored unnoticed for years. In college she interned at MCA records, and then she performed around Nashville for almost a decade before signing with MCA's sister label, Decca Records.

"I've had plenty of time to prepare," Ms. Womack said of her recent success. "I've waited all my life to be able to run around and play country music."

On stage

What: Clay Walker and Lee Ann Womack
When: 8 tonight. Gates open at 6.
Where: Barton Field at Fort Gordon
How much: $10 in advance and $12 at the gate.
Phone:793-8552 or 791-6779.

Sound bite

To hear Clay Walker, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and press 8104. You'll hear part of the title song from his current release, Rumor Has It.

To hear Lee Ann Womack, call INFOLINE at 442-4444 and press 8105. You'll hear part of the song Am I The Only Thing That You've Done Wrong, from her self-titled release.


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