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Lee Ann Womack, ‘The Way I’m Livin’’

This lovely country album—recorded almost three years ago with producer Frank Liddell (Womack’s husband), producer/musician Glenn Worf and producer/engineer Chuck Ainlay—finally found a label (Sugarhill) and was released this past November. It was worth the wait: Womack’s voice has never sounded more clear and sweet, the song choices are excellent, and during the week of our interview with Ainlay for this piece, the record was Grammy-nominated for Best Country Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

“That is one of my favorite records of all time that I have been involved with,” says Ainlay. “All the right buttons get pushed when I listen to it, and that just starts and ends with her voice. She’s got harmonics that just seem to reach inside me.”

The album was recorded to Nuendo at 96k/24-bit in the Front Stage studio at Sound Stage in Nashville. Basics were cut live with Womack singing a scratch vocal.

“With a singer like that, that’s so important, because the musicians feed off of her,” Ainlay says. “The musicians are not just reading chord charts. They’re responding to the singer, and as soon as they see Lee Ann start singing, the whole level of the playing field gets raised; the whole thing would come to life.”

Ainlay captured Womack’s final vocals to a Neumann U 67 through a Martech MSS10 mic pre and a touch of Tube-Tech CL-1A compression. “After we tracked the vocals, Frank said, ‘It feels like there’s a bit of a veil on her vocal. I just want to hear everything there is,’” Ainlay recalls. “So I said, ‘Well, let me take the windscreen away.’ It was just one of those sheer nylon stocking-type windscreens, but we pulled that away, and it was like a little bit of a curtain was lifted. It’s a minuscule thing, but it sounded more open and it made her more reachable, like she’s right there in front of the speakers.”