Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ee Ann Womack made it quite clear where she was coming from three songs in to her first show in the Boston area in years. "We're gonna play country music," said Womack after playing a sparking version of the new song "Don't Listen to the Wind." "I mean real country music."
By that, Womack actually meant traditional country music because the non-traditionalists out there today leading the pack always argue that country music is a big tent, and all are welcome.
If so, then Womack ought to be right back in the thick of things. Chances are she won't because her career arc has been one where she's tended to do things her own way, and what she's doing now (she released the very fine "The Way I'm Livin'" on Sugar Hill last September) isn't exactly commercially popular.
But don't tell that to the packed house because Womack turned in a relaxed, warm show that made the strong case that because you're 48 doesn't mean you necessarily should be put out to pasture.
The Texan always has benefitted from a great voice. It's twangy, easy on the ears and replete with emotion that you just don't hear all that much of today. In fact, Womack seems to serve as a reference point for fellow Texan, Kacey Musgraves.
Womack showed her leanings from at the outset with "Never Again, Again." It's one of many of her songs about relationships where there is a longing to keep it together despite knowing that's a bad idea. Isn't that what country songs used to be about?
And when Womack wasn't giving it up for love ("Does My Ring Burn Your Fire," "Little Rock" and the new "Chances Are"), she was dealing with the devil and other religious themes (the overtly religious "All His Saint" from the new disc to a very worthy reading of "Wayfaring Stranger").
There was a lot of heartbreak and sadness in Womack's songs, but she sure made it sound real good.
So did her band, particularly guitarist Ethan Ballinger and mandolinist/fiddler Zach Runquist.
Womack's signature song, of course, is "I Hope You Dance." She turned in a worthy performance with it as the next to last song of the regular set (unconventional there as well as most artists would save it to end the concert), but this wasn't a show where you were waiting all night for it.
The back-and-forth between sacred and profane continued into the three-song encore as well, starting with "I May Hate Myself in the Morning" with Womack opining "this is country music" to "Last Call" to Don Williams' 1982 chestnut "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good."
The 90 minutes of Womack sure was because she made "real country music" sound really good.