My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Lee Ann Womack – ‘The Season For Romance’

Following the immense crossover success of “I Hope You Dance”, MCA Records continued to push Lee Ann Womack further in the pop direction, hoping to make her into a pop diva like Shania Twain or Faith Hill. Something Worth Leaving Behind, released in August 2002, bore very little resemblance to country music and was both a critical and commercial disaster. Two months later, Lee Ann released a Christmas collection, which also had little to no connection to country music. While it’s not uncommon for country stars to go for a more traditional pop or big band sound on holiday collections, the timing of The Season For Romance, on the heels of Something Worth Leaving Behind, added to the perception that what Lee Ann was leaving behind were her country roots.

Many people are nostalgic for Christmas music in the vein of Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Johnny Mathis, even if this isn’t the type of music they normally listen to throughout the year. In the past, country stars such as Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, and Martina McBride have attempted to recreate those sounds on their holiday albums, and it’s often been quite effective. But unfortunately, this is decidedly not the case with The Season For Romance. Seldom have I heard an album where the singer seemed so ill at ease with the material as is the case here. Throughout the entire album, Lee Ann seems to be working too hard to erase her Texas accent, and too often seems to be competing with the orchestra rather than singing with it. Songs such as “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” sound as though Lee Ann recorded the vocal track without any knowledge of the type of arrangements or instrumentation that would be used with it.

The album’s worst track is the remake of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, which has never been one of my favorite songs. A pop standard dating back to the 1940s, its best known version is probably Dean Martin’s 1966 recording (Martina McBride’s duet vocals were added in 2006). Lee Ann is joined by Harry Connick, Jr. I may perhaps be a little biased since I’ve never particularly liked this song, but I found Lee Ann’s very breathy performance that tries too hard to be sexy, to be quite annoying.

I don’t mind so much that this isn’t a country album; my main gripe is that Lee Ann seems uncomfortable and out of her element throughout most of it. The sole exception is “The Man With the Bag”, which is the one song on which she really seems to be engaged and enjoying herself. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night” aren’t bad — though I could have done without the distracting saxophone on the latter — but this is, for the most part, a lackluster and poorly executed project. I really hate to pan a Christmas album, particularly one from an artist whose work I usually admire, but I found this album very painful to listen to. Lee Ann is capable of much, much better and hopefully one day she’ll release a better Christmas album.

Grade: D

2 responses to “Album Review: Lee Ann Womack – ‘The Season For Romance’

  1. Treedy December 20, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I agree 100 percent with this review! Whenever I have shuffle on my Christmas play list and one of her songs comes on o have to skip it.

  2. Ken Johnson December 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Razor X you definitely nailed this one. I was a fan of Lee Ann’s voice from the get-go and loved her early country recordings. But when she made the turn toward pop she lost me. This Christmas album was a MAJOR disappointment. I have no idea who she & her producer thought that they were targeting with this ill-conceived project. Pop fans generally had no idea who she was and country fans were alienated by these over-the-top arrangements. Too bad because Lee Ann could have done a COUNTRY Christmas CD that would’ve rivaled Tammy Wynette’s 1970 Christmas album. Major lost opportunity here.

    By the way Dean Martin’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside” was recorded for his first holiday album, “A Winter Romance” released on Capitol in 1959. A great album by any measure as was his second Christmas album released in 1966 for Reprise. “Marshmallow World” is my favorite track from the latter. Both albums receive plenty of play during the holiday season at my house.

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