Lee Ann Womack Praises 10 Grammy-Winning Country Classics

Nominated This Year, She Won a 2002 Grammy for Duet With Willie Nelson

Lee Ann Womack has won numerous awards since her career launched in 1997, but the Grammy she shares with Willie Nelson — for the 2002 duet, “Mendocino County Line” — remains a career highlight.

“Being a girl who grew up in Texas, people just worship Willie there,” she said. “It was kind of surreal … that you’d find yourself winning a Grammy with Willie Nelson. Willie gets so much respect in that world — the Grammy world — that it was a neat way to be introduced.”

This year, she’s nominated again, in the category of best female country vocal performance for “Last Call.” In this recent interview with CMT.com, she shares her thoughts about 10 of country music’s most famous Grammy-winning songs.

“After the Fire Is Gone,” Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty
Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo Or Group — 1971
Oh, my lord, one of my favorite all-time country songs. Conway and Loretta, I mean, I miss those kinds of duets. Flat out, simply, we just don’t have that kind of thing anymore, and I miss that. I love the harmony parts that he would put on there. … He knew how to sing harmony and could skip around and make a harmony part cooler by moving around, rather than just staying on one part. I think he did that on “After the Fire Is Gone.” What a great classic country lyric — “There’s nothing cold as ashes after the fire is gone.” That’s just as good as it gets.

“Always on My Mind,” Willie Nelson
Best Country Vocal Performance, Male — 1982
You know, Willie’s one of those artists that is hard to define — and that to me is such a good thing. Everybody loves Willie, no matter what kind of music they listen to because he just sings from the heart. He’s as country as you can get, but because he’s so real, it translates into all different kinds of music. “Always on My Mind” is one of those songs that everybody loves.

“Choices,” George Jones
Best Male Country Vocal Performance — 1999
Oh, golly, what a voice! You know, when you hear George sing those lyrics, it’s so real, and you just know he’s lived it. I just love to hear him say that. I pull that record out all the time and listen to it again because he sounds so wise delivering that lyric.

“El Paso,” Marty Robbins
Best Country & Western Performance — 1960
Oh, Marty Robbins. What a great, classic voice he had. And I love anything that talks about anywhere in Texas! (laughs)

“For the Good Times,” Ray Price
Best Country Vocal Performance, Male — 1970
Awwww. You just hear that intro and it’s so beautiful. I love Ray Price. A great song written by a great writer — sung by a great singer — that has and will forever stand the test of time.

“I Don’t Wanna Play House,” Tammy Wynette
Best Country Vocal Performance, Female — 1969
Ah! I was driving down an East Texas road at night, and you know they have the greatest country stations there. Aubrey [Womack’s daughter] was in the car with me. This was probably a year or so ago. We were down there visiting my parents, and that song came on. She didn’t say a word until it got about halfway through the song, and then she just said, “Oh, my gosh. This is so sad!” (laughs) But she got it, you know? She was 17 years old and she got it! I saw the light go on, and I was fired up! (laughs) Now she sings it with me. We’ll sit around the house, and I’ll play the guitar and sing it, and she does the harmony part. I just love it!

“9 to 5,” Dolly Parton
Best Country Vocal Performance, Female — 1981; Best Country Song — 1981
I own the piano that was on that record! (laughs) I bought it because it was on all my records until I Hope You Dance, and it was in the old RCA studios. We go in there and play that once in a while and just laugh about it. I mean, Dolly, come on! You talk about another artist who appeals to everyone, no matter what kind of music they like. I love that movie, too. I thought it was brilliant, with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. It was a great, great, very commercially successful song.

“Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends,” Ronnie Milsap
Best Country Vocal Performance, Male — 1974
Mmm! Ronnie Milsap made some good country records, didn’t he? And that’s one of the ones where he nailed the ending, where he goes up high. I love that song. Ronnie had great soul, and I think that’s so important when you’re talking about real country music. He had several really, really country songs and records where that came across. He put a lot of feeling into what he did. I’m a big Ronnie Milsap fan.

“That’s the Way Love Goes,” Merle Haggard
Best Country Vocal Performance, Male — 1984
Oh, Merle. What a beautiful voice he has. And so effortless. I love the way he borrowed from not only Jimmie Rodgers, but also Lefty Frizzell. And now George Strait has it, too — that effortless but round tone. He didn’t need a lot of stuff going on, on his records. His voice carried it. I love that record in particular, but there are so many of his records that I love.

“Whoever’s in New England,” Reba McEntire
Best Country Vocal Performance, Female — 1986
Reba had this whole career before that song. … All those Mercury records … I just thought they were amazing. You know, Ricky Skaggs sang some of the harmony on those records, like “Today All Over Again.” “Whoever’s in New England” was a great record, too. Don’t get me wrong. And I remember that was when videos were coming on really strong. I remember she was standing in this big airport and she was wearing Wranglers. (laughs) She was still very much Reba but starting her whole crossover appeal. But I sure did love the records she made before that, too.