Lorrie Morgan released her first album in five years on Friday (Feb. 12), and the project is worth the wait for her fans.

Letting Go ... Slow marks Morgan's return to recording after an extended period away, but as she tells Taste of Country, she's been collecting the songs for the project for a lot longer than that.

"There's quite a few reasons for why so long between albums. I guess I kind of lost my drive," she admits matter-of-factly. "It's been a long battle, I guess, with me in my inner mind. I wasn't happy with the music I was hearing, what was being played on the radio, and what radio thought were great songs, I thought were not great songs. So I just kinda lost my confidence in, did I think I could do a good job on a new album? Could I change things, could I make it about great music again? And finally after five years I said, 'You know what, I'm ready to go in, I'm ready to try this, I'm ready to give it all I've got.'"

And she did, offering up an album that moves easily between older cover songs including "Ode to Billie Joe," "I've Done Enough Dyin' Today" and even Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," as well as standout new songs like "Is It Raining at Your House," "Spilt Milk" and the track that inspired the album's title, "Slow." It's not a project pitched to country radio — which is exactly why it works as well as it does.

"It just became, 'Why go in and record music I don't believe in just to get on radio?' And I said no, I'm not gonna do that," Morgan says. "So I just waited and waited, and it's not necessarily that I know the right time ... I just felt like it was time for me to put the music that I love back out, and I'm excited about it. We're going for a Grammy on this. I'm really excited about that as well."

She re-teamed with producer Richard Landis — who helmed some of her most important past work — for Letting Go ... Slow, and Morgan says his input is invaluable.

"Richard Landis is a modern-day Mozart, almost. He's so genius that's he's almost frickin' crazy!" she says with a laugh.

"He believes in what I believe in. We both love the same kind of music, the same kind of instrumentation. He's brought a lot to the table that I didn't even know I loved. He's introduced me to a lot of great musical compositions that I wasn't even aware of, and we laugh, we have a great time in the studio. When it's time to work we work; when it's time to play, we play."

I wasn't happy with the music I was hearing, what was being played on the radio, and what radio thought were great songs, I thought were not great songs.

One of his more outside-the-box ideas resulted in one of the album's most interesting tracks.

"At the last minute I wanted to do 'Lay Lady Lay,' and people were like, 'Are you gonna keep it the same, or are you gonna say, 'Lay baby lay?' And I said, 'You wanna change a Bob Dylan lyric, you go right ahead, but I'm not,'" Morgan says with another laugh.

"Richard comes in right at the last minute, and he says, 'Hey, I've got this crazy idea ... why don't we cut it with a little country reggae feel?' And I'm like, 'Wow, that's just too crazy.' And we started playing it, and everybody — the band and everyone — is just like, 'Richard, this is bad ass. This is really good.' It worked. It was one of those things that just worked, and it put a new twist on 'Lay Lady Lay.'"

The business has changed completely since Morgan enjoyed her biggest commercial successes, with a growing emphasis on internet word-of-mouth as a viable promotional model. She says that's liberating for someone in her position.

"Here's the good thing about it: I don't have to depend on some jerk disc jockey whose wife doesn't like me, and has threatened him not to play my songs," she says with trademark candor. "That is the honest-to-God truth. That's it in a nutshell. The fans don't have to go through a disc jockey or a radio station that loves me, or that doesn't like me. They can download the music. It's not about radio, and you can't know how many times I have dealt with that situation. I'm very relieved, and maybe that's why I thought now is the time. I'm not up against radio. I'm doing this for me and my fans."

Which isn't to say that she doesn't want radio to get on board with the new album.

"Good lord, I hope they do! But if they don't, it's not gonna break my back," Morgan states. "Am I gonna go out and do a radio tour and all that stuff? You bet your butt I'm not," she adds with a laugh. "Been there and done that. I'm past that. As my dad used to say, 'I've earned my stripes in this business, and I'm not doing that.'"

Morgan will be out on the road promoting Letting Go ... Slow for much of 2016, playing a mix of solo dates, shows with Pam Tillis and gigs on the bill with Joe Diffie and Mark Chesnutt. So far she's playing "Ode to Billie Joe" in her set, along with 'Slow,' which she says fans are reacting to the most. She's hopeful the song will be the single from the album.

"We've got a lot going on, and I'm really excited about this year," Morgan says.

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