NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A hit country song and a move to Nashville. Could it be that LeAnn Rimes (search) is finished with her foray into pop and rock and ready to return to her country roots?
Rimes does have a Top 10 country single with "Nothin 'Bout Love Makes Sense," (search) a light, bouncy tune from her new album "This Woman," (search) which comes out Jan. 25. And she and her husband, an aspiring actor, did move to Nashville from Los Angeles.
But the single is about the only country song on the new album, and the move to Nashville was mostly to be closer to family.
Rimes, only 22, is still a musical drifter.
"I've been blessed with a gift that I've been able to sing everything, and I enjoy doing that," she said. "I grew up listening to all different kinds of music, and I never knew boundaries. I still don't know boundaries."
She shows her range on the new album, from country-flavored "The Weight of Love" to the bluesy ballad "Some People" to the heavy rocker "I Got It Bad" to the pop-tinged "With You."
Rimes says the album, produced by Dann Huff, is inspired by her love of 1960s and '70s rock and blues, a period when she said music was more honest.
"In this day and age it's so much more about an image than about the music," she said. "I wish we had artists like we used to. I wish there was a Stevie Wonder, these amazing singer-songwriters with great voices. Now, you can fix anything in the studio; you can airbrush anything on the cover of a magazine. It makes it really easy these days for people to become stars."
Rimes co-wrote three of the 12 tracks, including the Janis Joplin-influenced "When This Woman Loves a Man." She had recorded Joplin's classic "Me & Bobby McGee" earlier in her career and has covered the late singer's "Summertime" in her concerts.
"I'm a huge fan because of how much of her soul she wore on her sleeve on stage," she said.
Like Joplin, Rimes has lived a lot in a short time. Born in Jackson, Miss., and raised in Garland, Texas, she began singing as a child at local talent contests. She was only 13 when her major label debut "Blue" became a country hit and drew comparisons to Patsy Cline for her heartfelt, powerful vocals. The album also produced the No. 1 single "One Way Ticket (Because I Can)" in 1996.
Rimes found crossover success with her 1997 pop hit "How Do I Live" and in 2000 with "Can't Fight the Moonlight" from the soundtrack to the film "Coyote Ugly." She took on a sexy image and rock-oriented sound with her 2002 album "Twisted Angel."
The young singer made headlines away from music in 2000 when she sued her father, Wilbur Rimes, alleging that he and her former co-manager, Lyle Walker, bilked her and her company out of more than $7 million. Wilbur Rimes countersued. The cases eventually were settled out of court, and Rimes said she and her father have reconciled.
Perhaps due to her youth, country fans seem to overlook Rimes' misfires, said Greg Frey, assistant program director at country station KILT in Houston.
"She's a young lady, and she's entitled to experiment and branch out," Frey said. "Despite what some people might perceive as missteps in her career, it's amazing to me how much good will there is toward LeAnn Rimes."
With her 2002 marriage to Dean Sheremet and the new album, Rimes says she's where she wants to be personally and professionally. Last fall she published a second children's book she wrote with her husband, "Jag's New Friend."
She hopes people finally see her as the woman she's become rather than the child star she was.
"I think this is the first time people are getting to see that I'm really a well-rounded artist -- not just a kid with a voice," Rimes said.