where've you been, lee ann?

lee ann womack. photo by james minchin.

lee ann womack. photo by james minchin.

It’s not a comment Lee Ann Womack, a reliable country hitmaker for over a decade, was used to hearing.

“Where’ve you been?”

For the East Texas native, recording and road work have been a steady way of life ever since she issued her platinum-selling debut album and a couple of staunchly traditional country hits in 1997, all of which led to winning honors as Top New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music that year.

While the 2000 Grammy-winning country-pop hit, I Hope You Dance continues to define Womack’s commercial profile, she has, indeed, been a little out of the spotlight in recent years. 2005’s There’s More Where That Came From, with its regally retro-designed album cover and reflections of Billy Sherrill-produced country hits of the early 70s, did nicely on the charts. But the release of a 2006 follow-up, Finding My Way Home, was delayed and eventually shelved. That’s when Womack did a little reappraisal of what she wanted from a country music career.

“I feel like I’ve been a part of this business since I was born,” said Womack, who returns to Lexington to inaugurate the Alltech Festival at Applebee’s Park with Alan Jackson on Wednesday. “And I think I’ll always feel like I will be in one way or another. I guess I just never thought of myself as coming or going.

“Now, people say to me, ‘Oh we thought you retired. We haven’t heard from you. Don’t you miss playing music?’ And I always say, ‘I still play music. I’m here at home playing, writing and recording music all the time.’ But I found I just had to keep my head and heart in line and in the right place.”

That’s where the fate of Finding My Way Home comes in. With a solid decade of recording and touring behind her, Womack admitted Finding My Way Home was simply “made for the wrong reasons.” The album’s title track was released briefly to country radio and quickly fizzled. Womack then asked for a delay in the album’s release. But management, record label executives and even the singer herself later agreed to can the record entirely.

“I felt like I went in and started making a record simply because it was time to make another record. It was about meeting the commitments of my record deal, that sort of thing. That’s not to say that none of that material won’t ever be heard. Just as a whole, though, I knew the album wasn’t going to come out. I think I was making that record more in my head that my heart. And I always have more luck and success when I follow my heart instead.”

That is pretty much what Womack has done throughout her life in country music. Where many singers have borrowed from the specific inspirations of musicians in their immediate circle of friends and family, Womack borrowed from an entirely different legacy. Her father wasn’t a musician, but a country music disc jockey. So for the better part of her East Texas youth, she did something few aspiring singers made time for. She listened. And listened and listened.

“I sat around and listened to records all the time. I’d dig through my dad’s collection and then dig through the records at the station he worked for. That’s all I ever did. I think my parents were worried about me.

“By the time I got to high school and could drive, I started going to concerts. I’d sneak into clubs when I wasn’t old enough. I’d drive to Dallas and not tell my parents. I did everything I could to go hear music.”

As Womack’s career began to take off, there were a few more mentors on her side. One was so taken with her debut single, Never Again, Again, that he began singing Womack’s praises almost as much as he was his own hit songs. His name was Alan Jackson.

“That song was just so very, very country. I think he had missed hearing that from any new artists that were coming out back then. I just really, really, really appreciate working with Alan more than any other country artist.”

Womack’s next career step comes this fall with another new album called Call Me Crazy, which teams her with veteran producer Tony Brown. A single from the record, a sterling bit of acoustic barroom heartache called Last Call, hit country radio late last month.

“I’ve taken some time off the road to write more and just to live more. When you’re on the road and totally immersed with your career, you’re not really living a normal life. It’s when I’m living a normal life that I come up with the best material for people to relate to.

“I feel like in order to be truly creative, you just need to pull out for a little bit. Now, you don’t need to be creative to be successful. But I have to be creative to be happy. And that’s something I have to do to make the best music I can.”

Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack perform at 7 p.m. July 30 at Applebee’s Park. Tickets: $50, $60, $85, $100. Call: (859) 422-7867.


time for a TOUCH-UP? Doctors report increase in elective cosmetic procedures including breast and Lasik surgeries and facial injections.(BUSINESS)

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN) October 18, 2010 Byline: DEE DePASS; STAFF WRITER Bryn Collins paid nearly $10,000 for a facelift and eyelid surgery 10 years ago. Now, at age 65, she could have another, but opted instead for “facial fillers” — those $1,500 injections that smooth eye wrinkles and marionette mouth lines for 18 months.

Though Collins’ psychology practice was still smarting from the recession, she found a way to finance the shots. She quit shopping, hoarded the change in her pockets, and set aside the first $20 of every ATM withdrawal until she’d saved enough.

“Psychologically, it’s healthy for us to feel good about how we look,” Collins said. “When I look in the mirror and see my grandmother’s lips and all, I say, ‘No!'” Collins’ willingness to part with hard-earned cash resonates with cosmetic clinicians who say demand for Botox, fillers, chemical peels, breast enlargements, nose jobs, Lasik eye surgeries and other out-of-pocket procedures are creeping back after a dismal three years in the elective surgery business.

“We have heard some recent rumblings that things are on the upswing,” said Brian Hugins, a spokesman for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Although hard numbers for 2010 are hard to come by, anecdotes and industry surveys suggest a mild comeback.

And economists are keeping a close eye. go to site deviated septum surgery

“We saw one of the biggest pullbacks in consumer spending and confidence in 50 years,” said Wells Fargo senior economist Scott Anderson. “So the fact that this demand [for elective surgery] might be coming back is the first sign that the consumer is starting to come out of its deep freeze.” As printing, manufacturing and retail were smacked by the recession, so were medical procedures that patients elected to pay for on their own. Cosmetic surgeries plummeted 9 percent in 2008 and another 9 percent in 2009, according to the 6,000-member ASPS.

And more expensive procedures such as liposuctions, tummy tucks and breast augmentation surgeries dropped dramatically. Breast augmentations, for example, dropped 12 percent in 2008 and 6 percent in 2009. Liposuctions dropped 19 percent in 2008 and 2009.

Practitioners blame layoffs, stock market declines, underwater mortgages and tightened home-equity and other loans for throttling the $10 billion industry.

But the siege may be easing. An ASPS survey this year found that 15 to 29 percent of respondents nationwide acknowledged wanting a beauty procedure that was not covered by insurance. Another ASPS survey of physicians found that minimally invasive procedures, such as the facial filler injections that Collins received, rose 6 percent this year after climbing just 1 percent in 2009.

Several Minnesota surgeons now report that more patients are pairing insurance-covered procedures, such as deviated septum surgery, with out-of pocket cosmetic work like rhinoplasty or liposuction. Others find patients forgoing vacations, new cars and clothes or working extra shifts to pay for the quick-fix surgery of their dreams.

The entire industry is coming back “a little bit by little bit,” said Dr. Joe Gryskiewicz (pronounced Gris-KA-vitz), who performs about 500 breast surgeries, tummy tucks, rhinoplasties and injections a year at the Minnesota Valley Surgery Center in Burnsville. “We are seeing more people go for the cheaper procedures. In the last two years, I would say business has tripled [for] lower-level entry procedures.” Finding a way To keep his revenues level throughout the recession, Gryskiewicz booked more shots and more patient consults. Before the recession, most of his clients qualified for surgery loans. Today five out of 10 discover just before the operation that they can’t get the loan because of poor credit or tighter lending guidelines, he said.

Still, some determined patients find a way to finance their procedures.

Lisa, a 32-year-old health care worker who asked that her last name not be used, has wanted to surgically enlarge her breasts for three years. “Breast feeding just sucked the life out of them. But once I was done having kids is when the recession started,” she said. “My husband is a Realtor, so that [meant there was no money for implants]. But now home sales are just starting to pick back up again and I just decided it was time.” Lisa doubled work shifts, brought in leftovers for lunch and quit shopping until she’d saved $5,500 to pay for her surgery.

One friend, who persuaded her not to wait any longer, had her own breast surgery a few months ago. Another friend goes in soon.

On Oct. 6 it was Lisa’s turn. “I’m ready and excited,” said Lisa while lying on a gurney, draped in blue surgical gowns that matched her eyes.

Dr. Gryskiewicz and his team soon put her to sleep, cut a one-inch slit in each armpit and used a dissector to open a pocket beneath each breast. Gryskiewicz rolled up each implant like a cigar and fed them into the slits as nurses injected saline to inflate the orbs.

It took just 30 minutes, some adjusting and lots of antiseptic and novocaine rinses to transform Lisa from an A to a C cup. “That looks good. Real good,” Gryskiewicz said rechecking her symmetry from every angle. Fifteen minutes later, a groggy Lisa was smiling and responding to nurses, while the doctor stepped out of the operating room to prepare for his third breast surgery that day.

“Business is actually up a titch,” he said.

Pent-up demand At the University of Minnesota Medical Center, plastic surgery chief Dr. Bruce Cunningham said he’s seeing more cosmetic patients because the economy’s improving and people finally feel comfortable taking sick leave again. website deviated septum surgery

“Early this summer suddenly we had a lot of people who came in. [They] were putting off health care that they thought was elective,” Cunningham said. “They noticed a lump in their breast but put off doing anything about it because they were working overtime, people were getting laid off and they felt insecure about their jobs. They just didn’t want to take the time off. But now we suddenly have a lot more breast” surgery patients opting for out-of-pocket breast surgeries as well as insured procedures such as lumpectomies, and post-cancer reconstruction.

Steve Parente, a health economics professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said he is not surprised that several types of cosmetic surgeries appear to be improving.

“There is probably a little bit of pent-up demand in the market for that type of element,” Parente said. “It’s not unlike a kitchen makeover. Once people have discretionary cash again, they may say, ‘It’s time to get tuned up.’ ” LCA Vision Inc., one of the largest Lasik eye surgery centers in the country, sees pockets of growth in Minnesota and signs of stability nationwide after two years of pure misery.

The company shut 17 of 78 LasikPlus Vision Centers as recession-weary workers stuck with eyeglasses in lieu of corrective laser surgery that can run $2,100 an eye.

“Procedures at all of our vision centers declined throughout this recession. But now we do see signs of stabilization,” said CFO Michael Celebrezze. “We are just not sure it has been long enough for us to call it permanent.” Dee DePass – 612-673-7725 COSMETIC SURGERY TRENDS Total cosmetic procedures in 2009: 12.5 million, down 1% 11 million minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, up 1% 1.5 million cosmetic surgical procedures, down 9% TOP SURGICAL PROCEDURES 2009 vs. 2008 Liposuction down 19% Nose reshaping down 8% Eyelid surgery down 8% Breast augmentation down 6% Tummy tuck down 5% TOP NONSURGICAL PROCEDURES 2009 vs. 2008 Chemical peel up 9% Microdermabrasion up 8% Facial filler injections up 7% Botox down 4% Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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