Country star Lee Ann Womack has certainly shown a propensity to speak out lately about the state of country music, saying on numerous occasions that what they call country music today is not actually country. Now she’s speaking out again, and in no uncertain terms about what she believes modern country music is experiencing at the moment.
On Wednesday (8-9), ABC aired its annual 3-hour special of CMA Fest coverage taken from the event in June at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium. Like many other country artists from across the genre, Lee Ann Womack participated in CMA Fest, which she had generally nice things to say about while speaking to The Boot.
“I think there was a charm in the early years, those Fan Fair years, that’s maybe not there now … It felt a little more ‘mom and pop’, and that has its advantages as well. But sometimes people think that I’m gonna be the person who says, ‘Oh, it should be like it used to be,’ and I don’t feel that way. I like to see things grow and advance and change.”
However Womack wasn’t so agreeable with to the changes happening in country music proper, saying point blank, “The term ‘country music’ has been hijacked, and now it’s a marketing term. It gets frustrating at times, because I sing country music, so if I’m not country, then it leaves you without a home.”
As Womack underscores, country music isn’t just a term—it’s a sense of place, or “home” for many, which when torn asunder, leaves the people who identify with the music feeling lost for a sense of place or identity. Country music has always been special by presenting a constant in and ever-changing world. No matter what else is happening, country music is there. But as the lines continue to blur between other genres, that sense of home gets erased, leaving people feeling lost and lonely.
Womack also made sure to leave the door open to newer artists who may be doing something more along the lines of what country music is supposed to be. “If there are some new artists that are doing traditional country music—which I know Kacey Musgraves does, more power to them. I love that, and it’s kind of amazing. It’s an American art form, and I’m proud of it. It’s just my favorite.”
Sometimes when Lee Ann Womack speaks out on such matters, certain people point out her big, crossover smash “I Hope You Dance” as an example of hypocrisy. But along with being a great song, her signature tune was smashed between fiercely traditional-sounding albums from earlier and later in her career.
As strange as it may seem to some that the singer of “I Hope You Dance” is one of the most vocal opponents to what’s happening in country music today, that is what Lee Ann Womack has become, using her stature as a decorated and established country artist to speak her mind, and raise awareness about what’s happening in the genre more than anyone else at the moment.