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Lee Ann Womack

All The Trouble Tour

Lee Ann Womack

Eddie Berman

Sat, March 3

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Doug Fir Lounge

Portland, OR

$33.00 - $50.00

This event is 21 and over

Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann Womack
Artists don’t really make albums like Lee Ann Womack’s THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE anymore. Albums that seem to exist separate and apart from any external pressures. Albums that possess both a profound sense of history and a clear-eyed vision for the future. Albums that transcend genres while embracing their roots. Albums that evoke a sense of place and of personality so vivid they make listeners feel more like participants in the songs than simply admirers of them.

Anybody who has paid attention to Womack for the past decade or so could see she was headed in this direction. THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE (ATO Records) — a breathtaking hybrid of country, soul, gospel and blues — comes from Womack’s core. “I could never shake my center of who I was,” says the East Texas native. “I’m drawn to rootsy music. It’s what moves me.”

Recorded at Houston’s historic SugarHill Recording Studios and produced by Womack’s husband and fellow Texan, Frank Liddell (fresh off a 2017 ACM Album of the Year win for Miranda Lambert’s ‘The Weight of These Wings’), THE LONELY, THE LONESOME AND THE GONE marks the culmination of a journey that began with Womack’s 2005 CMA Album of the Year ‘There’s More Where That Come From,’ moving her toward an authentic American music that celebrates her roots and adds to the canon. It also underscores the emergence of Womack’s songwriting voice: She has more writing credits among this album’s 14 tracks than on all her previous albums combined.

Womack had made the majority of her previous albums in Nashville, where the studio system is so entrenched it’s almost impossible to avoid. Seeking to free herself of that mindset, Womack says, “I wanted to get out of Nashville and tap into what deep East Texas offers musically and vibe-wise.”

So Womack and Liddell took a band to SugarHill, one of the country’s oldest continually operating studio spaces. In an earlier incarnation, the studio had given birth to George Jones’ earliest hits, as well as Roy Head’s mid-‘60s smash “Treat Her Right”; Freddy Fender’s ‘70s chart-topping crossovers “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”; and recordings from Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Sir Douglas Quintet, the 13th Floor Elevators and Willie Nelson.

Womack found the lure of East Texas irresistible. “I love local things, and I missed local music,” she says. “I grew up in Jacksonville. It was small, so I spent a lot of time dreaming, and about getting out.” It required only a short leap of logic to view Houston, and specifically SugarHill, as the place to record.

Womack and Liddell found a perfect complement of musicians, players who clicked right away and became a one-headed band. Bassist Glenn Worf (Alan Jackson, Bob Seger, Tammy Wynette, Mark Knopfler and others), drummer Jerry Roe (numerous Nashville sessions and his band Friendship Commanders), guitarists Ethan Ballinger, Adam Wright (Alan Jackson, Solomon Burke and others), and Waylon Payne (son of singer Sammi Smith and Willie Nelson’s longtime guitarist Jody Payne) formed the SugarHill gang. Engineer and co-producer Michael McCarthy, known for his production work with Spoon, brought vintage gear from his Austin studio and help capture a sharper sound for sessions recorded entirely to analog tape.

“I got everybody out of their comfort zone and into a new element,” says Womack. “And it was funky there. This place was not in the least bit slick. Everybody there, all they think about is making music for the love of making music. Everyone comes in with huge smiles and positive attitudes. It was much different than what we were used to.”

Womack had brought a handful of songs to record, including the gospel-inspired original “All the Trouble”; the poignant “Mama Lost Her Smile,” in which a daughter sorts through her family’s photographic history looking for clues to a long-secret sorrow; and the love-triangle conversation “Talking Behind Your Back,” which she penned with Dale Dodson and Dean Dillon, the writer of several George Strait classics. To make the final cut, Womack and the band had to be able to get to the heart of the songs and shine their light from the inside out.

A trio of long-time favorites found their way onto the album, too. Womack joined a long list of legendary voices irresistibly drawn to Harlan Howard’s “He Called Me Baby,” putting a sultry Southern groove underneath its mix of sensuality and sorrow. On “Long Black Veil,” a tale of betrayal and closely held secrets that became a ‘50s classic as recorded by Lefty Frizzell, she taps into a ballad tradition that runs centuries deep. Womack recorded the album’s final track, a haunting version of George Jones’ “Please Take the Devil Out of Me,” standing on the same gold-star linoleum floor where Jones cut the 1959 original.

Capturing the reality of East Texas music isn’t always easy. Being in Houston and at SugarHill helped make that happen, inspiring an approach to the recording process that everyone embraced from the first note played. “Music down there — including Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and all the way through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — is this huge melting pot,” Womack says. “I love that, and I wanted that in this record. I wanted to make sure it had a lot of soul in it, because real country music has soul, and I wanted to remind people of that.”

“When you make albums, and aren’t just going for singles, you really have to treat them with respect,” Liddell adds. “We did that at SugarHill, taking a bunch of like-minded lunatics and seeing what happened.”

In Houston — with all its history, its eccentricity, its diversity and its lack of pretense — those like-minded lunatics found a place where they could flourish.

“We all felt we weren’t going someplace just to make a record,” Womack says. “We were going someplace to make a great record.” Don’t just take her word for it, though. Listen. And when Womack and the music take you there, you’ll find you want to stay.
Eddie Berman
Eddie Berman
Eddie Berman has been writing songs since he was a California teenager. His bedroom demos have earned substantial play on vanguard public radio station KCRW 89.9 FM, he's recorded and played throughout North America and Europe, and he performed for several thousand people over dozens of sold out London residency shows in partnership with the singer Laura Marling. In fact, while recording a live EP with Marling in 2013, he realized that the way to make a record was to strip the process down, to get at essence of the song. And now he's finally releasing his debut album that does just that. It's a stunning 10-song set that handles his world-wise observations as sacred, profound texts. The wait was worthwhile.

"It does feel like an eternity of building up and having this stuff, waiting," Berman admits. "It's a relief."

That protracted process hasn't made Berman -- or his music, at least -- impatient in the least. Instead, his perfectly tempered tenor winds through these austere arrangements, his assured fingerpicking providing the backbone for supporting piano and sighing lap steel, pillow-soft harmonies and blossoming trombone. Recorded by producer and former Rilo Kiley multi-instrumentalist Pierre De Reeder in his Los Angeles studio Kingsize North, Berman and his supporting cast cut these tunes in only two days. The tight timeframe didn't give them time to overthink the arrangements or to fret over every point of possible imperfection. These tunes, then, feel lived-in and human -- ever appropriate, as they are stark and honest examinations of the impulses, neuroses and desires that push each of us from one day and into the next.

"Some of my favorite records are recorded that way -- people sitting in a room, capturing what they capture. There's going to be a creaking chair. A solo isn't going to be perfect. You're not going to sing that line the way you'd planned it. But I love that," says Berman. "Why would you overcomplicate these things?"

The obvious lure comes early in the record with a slow-motion take on "Like a Rolling Stone." It's Berman's follow-up duet with Marling after they delivered a devastatingly seductive take of Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" on his anticipation-baiting Blood & Rust EP. Berman's voice trickles like a leaky faucet of worry, bending the anxiety and indignation of Dylan's words into an existential, intimate crisis. But Marling lifts him up, buoying his worry with generous harmonies. It's a stunning reinvention of a standard, the rare cover that acknowledges the original's intent but unabashedly augments it. Berman and Marling had planned on recording an obscure cut, a Bonnie "Prince" Billy B-side. While working on it, though, the pair stumbled into this take while Berman was teaching himself to write in a new guitar tuning.

"I asked Laura to sing one of the verses, because if she doesn't, it's just six-and-half minutes of me singing Dylan," Berman says. "That's not so enchanting."

The result is enchanting, but it's also just the start, a premonition of the wisdom and reckoning that Berman wraps into his own songs. During "Hamlet, Accidentally," for instance, Berman makes woe seem graceful, even necessary, as he extends his most magnetic chorus over stretched accordion chords and lilting picking. "Polyhymnia" is a yearning plea for inspiration, a secret transmission from a seeker in search not only of some universal truth but also for a way to share what he's found. The brimming and bracing "Avalon" extols the uncertainty of that shared, lifelong quest.

All of those feelings funnel into closer "Wherever We Go," a song about survival in spite of the elements and one another's misdeeds. Berman's band backs him with gospel-like antiphony, and the tune becomes a hymn for solidarity. "How you gonna sail/safely through the storm?" he asks, the ensemble repeating him before joining for the triumphant answer. "Hand in hand, we'll keep each other warm."

And that's the promise and the delivery of Berman's long-in-the-making debut. It's an album that asks difficult questions about life, frames them with the smarts and experiences of someone who's lived and learned and worked, and ultimately suggests a way forward.

"I am inextricably bound to this thing, to writing and playing these songs," Berman explains. "You can't get away from it, and that's not necessarily easy. But that's what fed these songs."