in performance: lee ann womack

Lee Ann Womack .

Lee Ann Womack .

“I don’t know if you’re in my living room or if I’m in yours,” remarked Lee Ann Womack last night as she took in the intimate but still sold out confines of the Norton Center for the Arts’ Weisiger Theatre.

It was an understandable estimation as the majority of the country star’s Central Kentucky concerts over the years have been relegated to show opening sets at Rupp Arena. Here, she was able to carry on in a more conversational manner. For instance, the living room comment earned a quick reply of “Yours” from an audience member, to which Womack answered back, “In that case, welcome.” Just try that kind of bonding at Rupp and see how far you get.

The intimacy of the Weisiger environment also suited the largely traditional aspects of Womack’s music, especially the Americana slant of her 2014 Grammy-nominated album, The Way I’m Livin’.

Easily her best reviewed recording in a decade, The Way I’m Livin’ was featured prominently during the 1 ¾ hour performance. Specifically, that translated into a setlist that boasted 9 of the record’s 13 tunes. Highlights included electric and sleekly spiritual readings of Mindy Smith’s All His Saints, Julie Miller’s Don’t Listen to the Wind and Western Kentucky native Chris Knight’s Send It on Down along with the equally light but decidedly more earthbound tone of Bruce Robison’s Nightwind and the Neil Young Harvest heartbreaker Out on the Weekend.

But the Livin’ song that set off the biggest spark proved to be Hayes Carll’s Chances Are, a quietly solemn country wailer that showcased the vivid sadness, clarity and strength of Womack’s still-effortless singing.

There were also loads of career defining hits that predated the selections from The Way I’m Livin’, including the Dolly Parton-esque show opener Never Again, Again and a slice of honky tonk despair with a sense of weariness sewn right into its title: Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago.

But it was the newer material that provided a sense of subtle urgency, if not complete reinforcement, to Womack’s traditionalist roots while enhancing an overall performance intimacy that seemed to delight audience and artist alike.

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