Tanya Tucker provided much of the soundtrack of my childhood. I distinctly remember falling asleep to her voice in the back of my grandmother’s old silver Thunderbird, “Two Sparrows in A Hurricane” coming through the speakers as she drove on through the southern California desert, cigarette hanging out the window as she hummed along. This didn’t just happen once. It happened a lot, almost as if Tucker’s soulful crooning was a beacon of hope for my grandmother in a world that had, so far, been pretty cruel and unfair. She and my grandfather were nearing forty years together and they’d raised (and were raising) three children and five grandchildren. Tucker’s melodies became anthems for her, the Outlaw Queen of country herself a solid reminder that she – and I – could be anything we wanted in those moments and we didn’t have to ask permission from anyone to do it. We’d sing, she’d smoke, I’d sleep, we’d make it through the forbidding Mojave desert to our final destination together; the matriarch of our family, my curly headed toddler self, and Tanya. To say that Tucker’s music transcends the words she’s singing to some deep and treasured part of my memories would be an understatement. Her songs, much like Reba’s and Dolly’s and Loretta’s, were lifelines to a world of which I desperately wanted to be a part. Though Tucker is often discounted in this list of legends her name absolutely belongs. Her performance this year on the 53rd annual CMA’s and the fact that she immediately jumped in her bus following her performance to resume her tight list of tour dates without missing a single beat is proof.
Tanya Tucker does not phone it in when it comes to her live performances, either. With a simple set boasting her signature cowgirl logo on a black scrim, Tucker’s concert stage is designed to enhance the musical experience and lead audiences to pay attention to her and her alone.There are no pyrotechnics or distracting light shows, allowing audiences to fully observe Tucker’s expert, nuanced performance. Her ninety-minute set provides an excellent mix of old favorites and new songs from her most recent album, While I’m Livin’, produced by Shooter Jennings and Brandi Carlile. Accompanying those songs are some wonderful stories. Tucker stands on stage and explains her life with the legends, casually discussing that time she was with Waylon and Willie, that time she had a wardrobe malfunction RIGHT before she went on stage to give a now-historical performance on the CMA’s with the other great Women of Country, tales of how blessed she feels to be on the road with her daughter Presley.
Perhaps the two most notable songs in the show were “Bring My Flowers Now” off the new album and “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane”, which she intro’d with a stunning a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace” and dedicated to her parents and their enduring love. Of finishing “Bring My Flowers” for her newest album, Tucker remarked “It took me thirty five years and twenty five minutes to write this song.” As the story goes, Carlile, who produced While I’m Livin’ , sat down with Tucker and finished the song in twenty five minutes while the band was on break from recording in the studio. The track acts as an anchor at the end of her album and to hear Tucker tell the story and sing the song live is a stunning experience.Together with her six-piece band and two backup singers, who form the band Reverie Lane, Tucker belted out “Mustang Ridge”, “Hard Luck”, and “Wheels of Laredo” off her new album, while still focusing on classics like “Love Me Like You Used To (When You Used To Love Me)”, “It’s a Little Too Late (To Do The Right Thing Now)” and “Texas (When I Die)”, which had the entire crowd on their feet.
All in all, Tucker gives an energetic, intimate, genuine performance that every country music fan should experience at least once. She certainly lives up to her legendary status on stage, and she’s still providing the soundtrack for so much of my life as I continue to grow and live and work in the world of which I dreamed as a child. Country music is a community and a family and Tucker makes every single person who wishes to be a part of that, whether simply by listening to her music or by writing about it, welcome.