Singer Wynonna Judd opens a new chapter in her long career with her forthcoming album "Wynonna & the Big Noise," her first with a full band of her own, set for release Feb. 12.
It's her first album in seven years, and the first in 13 years consisting of original material, including a track, "Things I Lean On," with a new video that The Times is premiering.
The message of the Travis Meadows-Daniel Sanders song, on which she is joined by Americana singer and songwriter Jason Isbell (who doesn't appear in the video), is one of uplift and the need for support through life's challenges. It's a theme that's surfaced regularly in her music since her earliest successes in the 1980s as part of the Judds duo with her mother, Naomi.
God's grace when I'm walking on a dangerous path
12 steps when I need to find my way back
My mamaw's voice on the telephone
These are the things that I lean on
"When I began my journey to self-discovery in 2003, I got involved in 12 Steps," she said in reference to the well-known 12-step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous. "When I heard the words in this song -- '12 Steps and the 23rd Psalm' -- I knew they spoke to everyone who's trying to be perfect in their program. Our theme is 'progress, not perfection.' The spirituality of imperfection is what this song is about."
The sound, however, is a departure, more stripped to the bone and rootsy, more contemporary Americana than the mainstream country with which she's most closely associated.
That sonic evolution has grown out of her 2012 marriage to her longtime boyfriend, musician and producer Cactus Moser, who has co-written two of the album's songs and is the drummer for the Big Noise.
"Like a garage band, we all get in a room, basically knee to knee in a circle, and we jam until it feels amazing," she told The Times. "By the time we push 'Record,' we are already jacked up because we have practiced and practiced until we know we are rocking. The end result is even better than when we started out because we're free to just play and enjoy ourselves.
The album also includes songs written or co-written by Chris Stapleton, Julie Miller, Raphael Saddiq, Kevin Welch and even the Eagles bassist-singer Timothy B. Schmit.
"I have stripped myself of all the expectations of worrying about fitting into any format and just picked songs I love," said Judd, who is scheduled to play the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 22. "This album is my favorite thing I've done so far."
Said Moser: "It creates more energy, more excitement and definitely a more unique sound to have our actual band play. When you have session players you just play differently. There's less emotional input, less freedom. These guys are with us 365 days a year, and that was my goal ... to have an actual living, breathing band make a record, not just people who come in for the week and then are gone. Much better feel, much better vibe."
And of "Things I Lean On," Moser said, "I've played this song for grown men. They look me in the eye and I watch tears come down their cheeks, just from listening to this song."