Tanya Tucker, Tatum O’Neal and the Runaways. As an impressionable young man growing up in the Houston 1970’s, those three constituted my first crushes. But there was always something special to me about Tanya Tucker. The rasp of her voice on songs that flooded KIKK and KILT airwaves. “Delta Dawn,” “What’s Your Mama’s Name?,” “Lizzie and the Rainman,” I remember them all and the impact they made. Young 7 or 8 year old me was convinced, and told anyone that would listen, I was going to marry Tanya Tucker some day. Well, obviously that didn’t happen, but it was certainly fun to reminiscence on those simpler times as I gave my attention to Tucker’s new album, While I’m Livin’, which streets on August 23rd from Fantasy Records.
While I’m Livin’ is Tucker’s first album since 1986’s Girls Like Me. This return effort showcases Tucker at her finest, her sassiest and decidedly, fondly reminiscent. The album has all the feels of a captivating autobiography captured in song, and owes significant appreciation to the talents and encouragements of co-producers Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings. Carlile in particular, (along with bandmates Tim & Phil Hanseroth) contributed a treasure trove of songs perfectly suited for Tucker. Jennings contributed a song from his dad’s catalog, the David Lynn Jones cut, “High Riding Heroes.” Also present here is a catchy and equally sassy Josefus cover of their ’79 hit, “Hard Luck,” and an immediately notable cover of “The House That Built Me,” originally released on Miranda Lambert’s self titled debut in 2001. Tucker’s take on the later adds a maturity to an already poignant song that gives it even more personality and impact.
Bridges, both literal and symbolic, hold a prominent significance on “While I’m Livin’”, most notably in “The Bridges” (which also contains a sly reference to her hometown, Seminole, TX) , but also in “Mustang Ridge.” The autobiographical nature of the album is at it’s best on “Rich,” a song that recalls Tucker’s father and hard scrabble upbringing fondly. There’s the sweetness of “Wheels of Laredo” and “The Day My Heart Goes Still,” and the kiss my ass sass of “I Don’t Owe You Anything.” Combined with the aforementioned covers, the album has all makings of a memorable comeback. Ahem, relaunch as Tucker would prefer. The album closes with the perfect little gem, “Bring My Flowers Now.” Sparsely filled with only Carlile’s piano and Tucker’s voice, it brings this journey to a meaningful close in a fitting and heartworn manner; a recollection of a woman who’s been there, seen that, and still has a lot to say. Tucker, whether she cares to admit it or not, has inspired a generation. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the trails Tucker blazed, we likely wouldn’t have ever heard a Brandi Carlile or Miranda Lambert to begin with. That point is important, and absolutely reinforces the impact Tucker has made on country music. She’s tough as nails. She’s a survivor and she knows it.
Tucker’s While I’m Still Livin‘ is a special album, and one I predict will prove to be just as important to Tucker as Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings” and Loretta Lynn’s “Van Lear Rose” were to them. Much like those albums, this is a just about perfect, “re-launch” album. It’s also one of my favorites releases of 2019 so far, one that has made its way into a constant rotation. So while, I guess I still won’t ever get to marry Tanya Tucker, the crush definitely remains firmly in place. All hail the queen.
Tanya Tucker’s While I’m Still Livin‘ is still available to preorder, and is available in all the usual formats and as part of several different bundles. Find out all the options here: https://www.tanyatucker.com/