The careers of country singer Lee Ann Womack and singer-songwriter Patty Griffin have long followed similar paths in different subsets of music.
Both have had hits: Womack with the huge 2000 Sanders/Siller-penned single “I Hope You Dance,” and Griffin by association – as a songwriter via the Dixie Chicks and Emmylou Harris.
Both are in their 50s (50 and 53 in fact). Both are Grammy winners. Both have done award-nominated duets with country’s biggest stars. But their paths rarely intersect.
That changes next week when they hit the road together for an acoustic tour that stops Wednesday at Neighborhood Theatre.
“I’ve been friends with Lee Ann for a number of years and have had the good luck to get to sing with her. We’re just fans of each other,” says Griffin. “There’s no career move involved in this. We have different audiences, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Individual acoustic sets are followed by a song-swapping collaboration, although Griffin wasn’t sure what songs that would include when she spoke to The Observer last week. “I haven’t come up with anything. I might throw some weird stuff at her. I think she’s a great musician and so far, anytime I’ve asked her to do something, she’s been game.” She expects they’ll talk shop, given their similar interests and jobs.
“If I were a welder I could talk to welders about what I do,” Griffin says. “With singers in general – it’s a very strange thing to be. There’s certain things you carry around with you all the time that wouldn’t occur to other people.”
She notes the vulnerability singers require to deliver a song.
“What (Lee Ann) has in her voice is the thing I’m trying to hear in other singers,” Griffin adds. “I just saw (Icelandic rock band) Sigur Ros and to me it’s the same pure, emotional resonance.”
With the tour Griffin and Womack plan to bring together circles of people that rarely cross paths.
“There’s a lot of divisiveness in the world and a lot of complaining. Nobody wants to spend time with the other person,” she says. Griffin’s not sure whether her set list will reflect the tensions and division in modern-day America, but she does think about what songs the audience may need to hear when choosing them.
“Sometimes you have to sing what you need to sing. Sometimes when you put the set list down, there is sort of road map of what maybe needs to happen (for the audience).”
She expects some of Womack’s fans won’t know her at all, but that’s part of what makes the tour interesting.
“The thing I love about this particular tour is we come from different backgrounds,” Griffin says. “The audience members will probably never have gotten together before.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.