August 3, 1997 in Features

Wy On Leann Rimes: She Brings Beauty Back Into Singing

Jack Hurst Chicago Tribune
 

Wynonna is experiencing deja vu watching the rise of LeAnn Rimes.

When she got on the subject of Rimes, the outspoken Wy said how she would “like to see a little bit more” of the traditional-styled “heart” put back into today’s mainstream country music, and that “it’s time people really started listening to the music and the song, instead of just whether you can dance to it.”

“When was the last time you heard a song you came away singing or humming because it was so beautiful or was something that stayed on your mind for a long time?

” And who was that new artist that did it?”

She continued, hitting radio’s practice of playing so many songs in a row that by the time an announcer announces who sang what, listeners have forgotten which selection they were interested in.

“I don’t think we’re building superstars anymore. We’re not seeing people come up and earn it.

” I think the closest to that right now is LeAnn. She’s the only person I know of that I can even say it’s really a joy to watch her work up the ladder - you know, really enjoy it and move into it and grow into it.”

Asked if watching Rimes ever takes her back to her own first days of stardom, she laughs.

“I feel old!” she says. “I remember being 16 and meeting Bonnie Raitt and saying, ‘Ohmigod, I love you!’ And she said, ‘Girl, what you’re doing to me is going to come back on you someday. It’ll happen to your butt one day.’ And when it did, I went, ‘Ohmigod, she’s right!’

“It’s like I’ve moved over into another category, thank you very much. I accept this, but not easily - only because in my mind I’m still 16. In my spirit, I am.”

Another Lee Ann rising

A new Lee Ann on the rise is Texan Lee Ann Womack, who, following an impressive debut with “Never Again, Again,” sings the new hit single “The Fool.”

Because she is managed by George Strait’s manager (Erv Woolsey), she’s asked if there are plans for her to open shows for any of Strait’s large crowds. She confirms that there “has been some talk about it.

“I think I remember Erv saying, ‘You know, he wants a girl to open up, and when you start narrowing it down, there’s just not a lot (of women doing music that leans toward the sort of traditional country music Strait tends to sing),”’ she says.

“I love the same kind of stuff he does, and I think the music would work. Of course, I’m sure any singer probably thinks, ‘I’d be great on a bill with him.’

“I’ve been on the other side and gone to those George Strait shows, and some of the opening acts worked and some didn’t. I know from sitting out there going, ‘I wish Strait would get out here’ that it’s a tough spot to be in. So I’ve got to think about how people are going to be sitting there going, ‘I wish she’d get off and let him come on.’ I know it’s going to be hard.”

Point of view

Rodney Crowell - who formed the hot-picking new band The Cicadas with guitarist Steuart Smith, bassist Michael Rhodes and drummer/ vocalist Vince Santoro - has a song on the new Cicadas album he cowrote with John Leventhal, husband of Crowell’s ex-wife Rosanne Cash.

“John Leventhal and I go back to … actually, it’s a funny story,” Crowell says.

“I was going to make (produce) a record with (Nashville singer-songwriter) Jim Lauderdale, and Jim was playing me demos, and I said, ‘Who’d you write these songs with?’ He said, ‘This guitar player in New York. Think we could use him on the record?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m going to New York tomorrow, I’ll call him and we’ll get together.’

“So I went to New York and called John and we got together. I got to quizzing him and realized just how much a part of that music he was, so I asked him to come to Nashville and work with me, and he did. And I introduced him to my ex-wife, and they’re now married. I always thought that was funny.”

You did?

“Yeah, like ‘Huh! that’s funny.”’

Willie Nelson influence

Twenty-six-year-old Jack Ingram’s first album for Rising Tide Records, “Livin’ or Dyin’,” has been embraced by Americana radio, which recently sent Ingram’s first single, “That’s Not Me,” to No. 3 on its hit chart.

Ingram says “That’s Not Me” was written after he and a friend spent an evening listening to the early music of Willie Nelson.

Nelson, he adds, was the first of his heroes whom he actually met.

“He was doing an on-air guest deejay spot in ‘75 or ‘76 at KPFT, the public station in Houston, and I was 5 or 6,” he says. “My parents took us down there, and we waited in line and I met him. They took me to a bunch of things, because it was a big time for country music festivals and picnics and things, especially in Texas.

“I knew those (Nelson) songs without ever learning them,” he says. “They’re just part of me.”

On his mind

George Strait recently indicated to radio interviewer Lon Helton that he didn’t exactly put a remake of a Vern Gosdin hit on his new album because it was a favorite he couldn’t banish from his mind.

“In the middle of a session, Tony Brown brought this song in and said, ‘Do you remember this song, “Today My World Slipped Away,” that Vern Gosdin had?”’ Strait recalled, “and I said, ‘I don’t think so.’

“And we … played it and I did remember it, but you know, it had been so long ago that I had just totally forgot all about it, and what a great song it is, and I immediately wanted to go cut it. But Vern sings the heck out of it, you know, so I didn’t know if I could quite sing it and pull it off quite as good as Vern did, but I tried.

“Vern’s such a great guy. He was on the very first tour that I ever did. That was with Ray Price and that was back in ‘81 or ‘82. They needed another guy, and I had had a couple of records out and (booking agent) Buddy Lee called and said, ‘You’re going on the road with Ray Price.’

“So I flew to California and I met Ray and Vern. Vern and I used Ray’s band.”

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