The fiddles strike up an achy flourish; the singer enters drawling, lusty but restrained -- at first lamenting and, as the narrative unfolds, clearly relishing an illicit tryst in a motel room. The title tune of Lee Ann Womack's new album speaks volumes: Here's a celebrated country artist who's had a fair share of crossover success in the pop market, now returning to what brought her to the dance in the first place, via a set of classic honky-tonk-inspired country, some string-embellished ballads out of the Billy Sherrill production canon, and some rabble-rousing hard country. Not to mention some unaffected, deep-country vocalizing free of pop affectations and long on heart and soul, with broken hearts, bruised souls, and tarnished commitments all over the place. The surging, anguished twang and moan of guitars, fiddles, and harmonica on "The Last Time" reflect the tortures attending the singer's regret at not appreciating a good thing while she had it. Taking a hard-hearted tack in "He Oughta Know That By Now," Womack complains with righteous self-confidence about going out to get what's hers -- namely a one-night stand -- after being ignored by a workaholic husband, as a briskly finger-picked acoustic guitar part keys a bright, shuffling arrangement that contrasts with the dark doings the song describes. As a pedal steel moans, a churchy piano plays dark chords, and strings gently ascend, Womack offers up a deeply felt ballad, "Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago," in which she reflects, with no small measure of sorrow, on the hard lessons she learned a bit too far down the road of her life's journey. This is a beautiful album, honest and gritty and deeply felt; that it takes some dicey moral stances is grist for debate, and reason enough to welcome Womack back to where she belongs.