HEAR THE NEW LEANN RIMES IN ITS ENTIRETY!
You've known this day was coming, ever since an extraordinary prodigy named LeAnn Rimes became a country music phenomenon. With the release of This Woman, LeAnn Rimes fulfills the promise she showed as a thirteen-year-old superstar. Her voice -- breathtaking a decade ago -- has grown in range and power. The lessons of life have deepened her ability to bring meaning to a lyric. And her fearlessness will challenge us too -- to set aside preconceptions about country music, about music in general ... and certainly about LeAnn Rimes, whose finest days have just begun.
To put This Woman into perspective, consider two surprising facts. First, though she has been a household word since 1996, LeAnn is just 22. And second, though she is one of the best known country acts in the business, she never made her home in Nashville until a little more than a year ago.
"I've always loved Nashville, " she explains, "and when I got married, I felt that it could be the perfect place to make my home. My mom and dad live here, and my husband's family is in Michigan, so it's centrally located. It's a great place to work and also to be able to get all my priorities in balance."
Balance is the first critical ingredient in This Woman : With her home life secure, LeAnn was able to lay plans for her most important album without distraction. "I knew that this would be the first time I'd be able to sing about things I've actually experienced rather than experiences I could only imagine. That would change everything, from my writing to the way I get into music written by others."
And so LeAnn was primed to find the songs, the musicians, and above all the producer who would usher her into this new spotlight. No place is better equipped in all these areas than Nashville, where her first step forward actually led her back in some ways, to her emergence, in the days of Blue .
There was a guitarist named Dann Huff on those early LeAnn sessions. Since then, as she ascended to fame, Huff rose to become one of the city's top producers, with smashes by Faith Hill, Wynonna, Keith Urban, Lone Star, and other icons on his list of credits. "I'd actually worked with Dann on a track called 'We Can,' for the Legally Blonde soundtrack," LeAnn says. "But when we met again and talked about doing This Woman, I sensed that as far as finding a producer, I had met my perfect match."
"I met LeAnn on the session for 'One Way Ticket,'" Huff remembers, thinking back to the Blue dates. "She sang the song in one take. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my recording career: We were all awestruck that a thirteen-year-old girl could sing like that. She's remained an amazing singer all these years, but now she's become an artist as well. She's developed the kind of soul that comes only through living life."
Together Dann and LeAnn began to sift through material, not just, as Dann puts it, "to plug a great voice into a great song, but to find songs that represent something she feels." Some came from songwriters that LeAnn knew well. Others were songs that she had co-written. And still others came from people neither she nor Dann had heard of. Taken together, they formed an arc over a full range of emotions: tragic loss on "Probably Wouldn't Be This Way"' a "kick-butt" (LeAnn's words) rocker called "I Got It Bad," written by LeAnn and hubby Dean Sheremet and already a staple at NASCAR races; the infectious, hit track, "Nothin' 'Bout Love Makes Sense," whose sunny optimism mirrors LeAnn's feelings about her present and future.
The one thing the songs had in common was their excellence and ability to connect with LeAnn in ways that music seldom had before. "Every song on this album comes from my heart and soul. For example, I recorded 'Some People' in one take and was actually crying when I cut it. The writers were in the studio, crying too. It was magical. I don't think I could have done something like this two or three years ago."
That experience, of nailing a song directly, with minimal editing, is another key to This Woman . "Living in Nashville, I'm in the heart of great country music," LeAnn says. "But you also have every kind of music here, at every street corner. That made it easier for me to dig deep into a lot of older sixties and seventies rock and country and blues. Songs like 'When This Woman Loves a Man' and 'Some People' are very stripped down, with that Janis Joplin vibe. I love her soul and how free she was onstage; she inspires me to sink deep into my voice and use every bit of it. I think that shows a lot on this album, along with the very traditional country feel that I am so at home with."
And that leads to the second key element in This Woman : tradition . Born in Mississippi, raised in Texas, LeAnn was steeped in pure country music from the time she started singing at age two. Two years later she released an album -- Blue -- that would sell more than seven million copies and win her multiple international awards, including two Grammys. Not content to coast, LeAnn maintained an exhaustive schedule throughout her teens, releasing an average of one album each year, touring the world, and making her film debut in Coyote Ugly while also contributing to the soundtrack.
Through all this activity LeAnn developed a curiosity that took her past the borders of old-time country. With each project she took new risks, drawing rock, blues, electronic dance music, and other styles into her sound. Her experiments were controversial; some who once welcomed her as the next Patsy Cline felt that she might have forgotten her roots.
They were wrong. LeAnn never left country music; she just took it along with her. "Country music has always been my home base," she insists. "It always will be. But that doesn't mean I have to put limitations on it. It's so much fun to be free."
That sentiment shows in her relaxed approach throughout This Woman . Recording often in the same room with the band or occasionally at Dann's home studio, LeAnn sustains a peak of performance throughout This Woman . But that should come as no surprise; when you combine balance and tradition, then top that off with youth and experience, chops and soul, what you get is LeAnn Rimes as she's always meant to be.
"This is the best album I've ever made, front to back," she says. "My voice is bigger, especially on the low end -- but for the first time it's not just about my voice. I always used to get offended when I was a kid and people told me I'd interpret music differently when I'd gotten my heart broken or fallen in love. Well, I completely get that now, because it's true." Bottom line: This Woman . "It's exactly who I am right now," she states. "And it's just the beginning."
This Woman releases Tuesday, January 25.
LISTEN TO THE ALBUM! Click on the below links to hear the individual songs. RealPlayer is needed to open them. If you don't have RealPlayer, you can download it from here.