What’s Been Bothering Me About This New Tanya Tucker Album
Before we get started here, let’s just firmly establish that I am all for the new Tanya Tucker comeback record While I’m Livin’, and all the effort and attention behind it. As Tanya’s first original record in 17 years, it has undeniably helped put Tanya back on the map after she’s been ignored for way too long. Producers Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings deserve all the credit in the world for taking the initiative to make this record happen, and it arguably wouldn’t have without them. It has shined a renewed spotlight on Tanya that has been too long in coming, and hopefully will continue to burn bright for the rest of her life and career.
This week at AmericanaFest in Nashville, Tanya Tucker has been one of the centerpieces. She presented the Americana Artist of the Year award to her producer Brandi Carlile Wednesday night (9-11) as part of the Americana Music Awards in a touching moment. Afterwards she took the stage at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley for a stirring performance that included Carlile guesting on stage. Tanya Tucker is back, and it arguably wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for While I’m Livin’.
However, despite reviewing the record positively, there were a couple of curious and concerning things about the project. First, the production style was more in the Americana mode as opposed to the traditional and Outlaw country Tanya Tucker’s career is known for. This isn’t a deal killer or anything, but with the dearth of women in country and Tanya’s history with the genre, it’s a little disconcerting to see her career take the Americana approach. Nothing against Americana, but if country women continue to be steered away from country music proper, it will only exacerbate the problem. It’s also understandable why women and older artists seek out the Americana community for support, because they often fail to find that support in country. But country music needs its women and country legends, and according to Brandi Carlile, it was a concerted effort with While I’m Livin’ to make Tanya part of the Americana crowd.
But more curious about the album is how thin some of the songwriting came across. Much of the record was written by Brandi Carlile and her long-time collaborators, Tim and Phil Hanseroth for Tanya Tucker specifically. Some of the songs work really well, like “Mustang Ridge” and “The Wheels of Laredo.” Other’s feel quite formulaic and undercooked. And that wasn’t just my opinion. It was the opinion of Tanya Tucker herself.
“I didn’t know if the songs were strong enough,” Tucker told Entertainment Weekly, in an interview posted on the release date for the new record, August 23rd. Tucker also said the songs “had things in there I wouldn’t say,” despite being written for her. “I pick commercial songs. I’m one of the best at that,” Tanya also says, and explains how she reached out to legendary songwriter Paul Overstreet to get validation that the songs weren’t any good. As explained in the article, Tanya Tucker was so frustrated by the songs and Brandi Carlile’s production approach that she quit the project numerous times during the process.
“Every couple of days, she’d call the whole thing off,” Carlile told Entertainment Weekly. “I called Rick [Rubin] and said, ‘Is this a thing? Should I be deterred by this, or just keep going?’ He said, ‘Keep going, because she has one of the most iconic voices, not just in country but in rock & roll.”
Tanya Tucker also didn’t like the idea of re-cutting “The House That Built Me.” Written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, the 2010 single was arguably the biggest hit for Miranda Lambert, and is one of Miranda’s signature songs. “I really did not want to be caught loitering around that song because Miranda had taken it as far it can go. But Brandi talked me into it.”
Tanya Tucker was also frustrated that Brandi Carlile wouldn’t allow her to fix some of her vocal takes that she believed were less than stellar. Ultimately though, as the story goes, Tanya began to trust Brandi Carlile and the process, and came around on the record. “I know I came into this [album] thinking it was all wrong. But I come to find out, it’s not so bad being wrong. In fact, I kinda like it.”
But the question that remains is, was this the best process for someone like Tanya Tucker? Is “kinda like it” good enough? If we had heard about any other artist being asked to record songs written for them, or material they weren’t particularly fond of, or that didn’t represent their perspective on the world, there would be great concern. This is the ever-present criticism of how Music Row and mainstream country regularly conducts recording sessions, with heavy-handed producers calling the shots as opposed to allowing the artists themselves to pick their material and dictate the creative direction, with the producer standing by to aid the process.
If the results were universally revered, then perhaps this wouldn’t be a worthy discussion. But again, some of the material on While I’m Livin’ feels thin and formulaic, like taking Tanya’s story, and adding them to established templates of country songs as opposed to truly original expressions. In fact Carlile says herself, “I had the background on her and I also had templates. I’d say, ‘Hey, Tanya lived in Vegas, so let’s do a gambling song.’ Or, ‘She’s rough around the edges, so let’s make a prison song.’” The talk of how Tanya’s legacy is on par with Johnny Cash, and that Brandi Carlile hopes that a new series of albums will do a similar thing for Tanya as it did for Cash during his American Recordings era seems a little presumptuous, and could set up unattainable expectations.
In a strange sort of op-ed/promotional piece posted on Rolling Stone Country by Brandi herself, Carlile says, “[Tanya’s] ruggedness, honesty, and brokenness don’t seem like attributes to her, but you and I know they are. We’re still working to convince her of that, but I think it’s going to take us three more records.”
That’s the reason it seems important to pipe up about the process of how While I’m Livin’ was recorded. If there’s more records on the way, perhaps they should allow Tanya Tucker to try and pick her own songs, or at least some of them, or fix her vocal flubs if that’s what she’s most comfortable with. There also seems to be a sense around this project as if Tanya Tucker needs to be coddled like an elderly artist. Time may not have been as kind to Tanya as others since she started in the business at such an early age (13). But she is only 60-years-old. Vince Gill is two years older, just to put it into context.
Again, While I’m Livin’ is a really solid record, and the effort here is not to run it down, or the importance of what Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings have done to put Tanya Tucker back on the map where she belongs. But a lot of the chatter at this week’s AmericanaFest is how great Tanya Tucker is, but how many wished the record would have been just a bit better, how some of the songs feel weak, and if Tanya is truly going to have her late career Johnny Cash moment, it’s going to take a better effort the next time in the studio. Tanya Tucker came to like this record, and that’s an important point to be underscored. But it’s also important that artists are allowed to be in control of their music, especially when it comes to legends, and the community of Americana where control should always primary be in the hands of the artist.
John R Baker
September 13, 2019 @ 10:25 am
Records tend to sound like the style of the people who produced them.
I more or less shared your view on the first few listens but the material really grew on me. Wheel of Laredo is a particularly good song. There are weak songs but few make an album without some.
I still think they they should have taken the Rick Rubin approach an more tracks and dug around for better material from odd sources instead of writing it. That may have been an error of ego.
But I think the “Johnny Cash” expectation setting was an error as well. Very few performers have that kind of persona to work with.
November 12, 2019 @ 9:40 pm
Let Tanya write her songs. She is amazing at what she does. She has her own style of music and she knows what that is. Her new Album While I am living is awesome. Tanya can still do it. She has proven that already. Let her go and write her songs. Are pick the ones she wants to sing. She knows best!!!
September 13, 2019 @ 10:26 am
Based on the above, her instincts are correct. She should go with her gut and take the reins!
John R Baker
September 13, 2019 @ 10:30 am
And one other note is that I think this: “if country women continue to be steered away from country music proper” misses a substantial point. First and foremost country is having an identity crisis to begin with and “country proper” has always been Nashville and the radio that revolves around it. You seem to have forgotten that what you are worrying about is exactly what the outlawy movement was all about in the first place. They ditched “country proper” and did it their own way. Eventually Nashville had to grudgingly came around.
The women are going to have to do the same thing.
September 13, 2019 @ 10:54 am
Country music is a perpetual identity crisis. Always has been, and always will be.
You can be country, and not be aiming for commercial radio. Tracy Lawrence just did it. Vince Gill just did it. Lee Ann Womack and other artists have done it. No reason Tanya can’t either.
John R Baker
September 13, 2019 @ 11:12 am
True about the perpetual identity crisis. But that’s part of what seems like same story, different decade to me about all this.
What is different here though is that radio is somewhat outmoded all together. The most important push here may be streaming services.
September 13, 2019 @ 3:30 pm
By “country music proper” I don’t think Trigger meant the pop tart trash being peddled by Nashville, he’s thinking more of Reba’s new album, and other women who are making more traditional country. That’s what Tanya’s record should have been, IMO. And I 100% agree with you, that just like Waylon and Willie, someone’s going to have to stand up to the establishment and get things back in order. It’s happened before and I am hoping we are on the cusp of it happening again.
September 13, 2019 @ 5:56 pm
I just wonder if Waylon or Willie had helped co produce this album for Tanya, would all these songs be on this album…My guess is probably not.
September 14, 2019 @ 9:05 pm
If Waylon had helped produce this album, it would be a miracle and the most talked about release of all time, considering he’s dead and all.
September 15, 2019 @ 9:02 am
Obviously, sarcastic much? FYI, that was a classic tongue and cheek what if statement that was made to make the point that the producer and co producer kind of dropped the ball on song selections for her album…and the whole point of name dropping Waylon was because his son was the co producer, and while Shooter is a decent producer and co producer he isn’t on the same level of producing and co producing as his daddy was…
September 13, 2019 @ 10:37 am
I definitely think they should take the approach of going through songs, instead of trying to write the album for an artist. Nashville is full of great songwriters and great songs that are not being recorded, so let Tanya grab a bunch of those. I am also not sure that having brand new producers for someone like Tanya is the best way to go. Look at how Don Williams ended his career, his final two albums with Garth Fundis were incredible. Those two guys had such a feel for each other, that it allowed such incredible albums to be made, even at the end of Don’s career. Tanya should do what she does best and do things her way.
September 13, 2019 @ 10:52 am
There is such an excessive amount of great traditional country songs out there right now because nobody is cutting them. No reason not to tap into that. You still may decided that some of the Carlile material is the best. But do a proper job vetting your options.
September 13, 2019 @ 8:49 pm
Then, you’re leaving out the most important piece of the equation….Carlile doesn’t make any money with outside songs.
September 14, 2019 @ 7:39 pm
I think she does if she writes the songs recorded by Tanya.
September 13, 2019 @ 2:00 pm
”I definitely think they should take the approach of going through songs, instead of trying to write the album for an artist. Nashville is full of great songwriters and great songs that are not being recorded, so let Tanya grab a bunch of those.”
this is an approach MANY artists new and old , would do well to take . the ‘ write your own songs ‘ thing really only came about FOR EVERY PROJECT because of the label/artist-as-writer contracts , as I understand it ….and as we’ve all seen ,whether we’re listening to mainstream country , pop or other genres , songs are generally inferior to what they used to be when professional , skilled and experienced writers were involved .
Its one thing if you can’t find material and decide to write your own …or even include one or two of your own …….its a whole ‘nother FOOLISH thing to ignore the resources at your fingertips in terms of great songs , which are everywhere to be found , whether that is an artist , producer or label’s decision .
September 14, 2019 @ 12:39 pm
As I’ve mentioned before, I think some artists only put out the call for new song material to their own little group, an agreed upon or co-owned publishing company, etc…and/or it’s a case of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours; favors promised to producers, the record company, etc. in exchange for agreeing to work with the artist. On another recent, new album by a traditional female country artist, I scrutinized the lyrics to a very (in my opinion) underwhelming song. How did this song get on this album I asked myself…(I’d never heard of the songwriter). Nothing original, catchy or heart tugging about it, even after listening to the arrangement. I’d give it a solid C+ effort in Songwriting 101. Then I looked at the publishing company listed and thought about who was singing. I guess they had go with one of their (publishing co.) songs…no other explanation makes sense for such a tepid tune to make the cut for that album.
September 13, 2019 @ 10:38 am
I was at the 3rd and Lindsley showcase. Tanya praised Brandi several times and seemed to insist on having her on stage for most of the show (Brandi left the stage a couple of times, but Tanya asked her to come back), so it seems that Tanya has definitely warmed up to Brandi and has probably come around to some degree with the production decisions on the album.
Trigger, any plans on reviewing the new Caitlyn Smith song?
September 13, 2019 @ 10:50 am
As I tried to emphasize in the article, there is no reason to believe that Tanya and Brandi are in any sort of a combative situation or that Tanya is unhappy about how the record turned out. The bigger issue is, if we had heard about any other artist being told what songs to record, especially if they didn’t think the material represented them properly, we would be up in arms about how the Nashville machine was restricting their creativity. I don’t think we should give Brandi Carlile a pass just because she’s Brandy Carlile. That said, I don’t think they did a terrible job on this. I just think the ultimately control should sit with Tanya, and they should put forth a more serious effort to find the right songs for her to cut in future collaborations.
September 21, 2019 @ 5:53 pm
This is a ridiculous review and further sends the message about competition between women. One of the most beautiful things about this process is the obvious love and respect that these two have for each other. The material is amazing and showcases Tanya’s heartache of a voice in the way it should be showcased. And any criticism of Brandi Carlile, well that is ridiculous also. If you were at that show and really listened to Tanya, she said she learned from them and was eternally grateful that they pushed her in a direction that she might not have gone…
September 13, 2019 @ 10:56 am
As for the Caitlyn Smith song, may be a little too pop to isolate for a song review, but we’ll see.
September 13, 2019 @ 11:16 am
Yeah, I was pretty let down by it. I’m hoping it’s not completely representative of the upcoming album. In the past couple years I’ve noticed several Nashville-based female country pop artists take a turn in a more pop direction after not achieving much success within country genre.
September 13, 2019 @ 10:53 am
Like Trig, I’m mixed on the record. First of all, it’s Tanya Tucker…..Tanya Tucker….the legend…shes a giant in the country music realm. And as Trig implies, we who listen to COUNTRY MUSIC love and value our legends like Ms.Tucker. I for one am happy we still have The Opry, flawed though it may be. I am also fine with places like Branson, where legends still play. But we need the CMA to start showing more respect and interest in these folks. There is a solid market out there made up of folks like me who grew up on this amazing music, and we are willing and able to support our legends if only we would get a chance. Tanya Tucker belongs in COUNTRY music and honestly COUNTRY music needs her, IMO.
Americana is practically another audience entirely. Nothing wrong with that, it is what it is, but it’s no longer about COUNTRY music.
Your point about the songs being written by Brandi and the Hanseroth’s is a calculated business decision to keep that money close to the vest. Make no mistake about it, and from Brandi’s perspective it’s a great financial decision. I get it. But if you want to follow Rick Rubin’s approach, then allow her to sing what moves her.
All that said, there are some great songs on the new record, that Mustang Ridge is killer!
Good points Triggerman. I agree wholeheartedly.
September 13, 2019 @ 11:03 am
I’m a 51 year old gay man who has loved Tanya Tucker and get music since I was a kid, I was ecstatic when I first heard about her “finally” recording a new album, IMO she should’ve went with her instincts, if she had and took reins of making this album, it probably would’ve been much more Tanya and less Brandi, but hey it’s too late to think about that, but there’s always next album.
I’ve always thought she was many times overlooked as a force to be reckoned with in music.
Like Cher, Bonnie Tyler, Gus Hardin, Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Marilyn Martin, Joan Jett, Roseanne Cash, Pink, Amy Winehouse, Alison Moyet, Gladys Knight, Bonnie Raitt, Sam (Leslie) Phillips, Taylor Dayne, Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry and Elle King…. Tanya has that raspy voice that I absolutely love.
Anyway welcome back Tanya, your real fans love you no matter what, at the same time miss songs like some kind of trouble, it’s a little too late, one love at a time, borrowed wings, soon, without you, waking shoes, if your heart ain’t busy tonight, two sparrows in a hurricane and down to my last teardrop…. ❤️
September 13, 2019 @ 11:37 am
“if she had and took reins of making this album, it probably would’ve been much more Tanya and less Brandi, but hey it’s too late to think about that, but there’s always next album.”
Exactly. And that’s the reason I chose to give my constructive opinion now as opposed to forever holding my peace. We all want the best for Tanya—fans, Brandi, and myself.
Strait Country 81
September 13, 2019 @ 11:57 am
Was it even needed to point out your one of those?
September 13, 2019 @ 4:41 pm
As a straight white guy, I appreciate him adding a context to his views
September 14, 2019 @ 6:23 am
One of those. Real nice, buddy. Triggered, perhaps?
Maybe what he’s intimating is that as a longtime Tanya Tucker fan, the music comes first and he’s not giving Brandi Carlile a complete pass on her involvement on this album just because she’s gay. You know, not being all “politically correct.”
September 24, 2019 @ 12:39 pm
Another one of “those” here! We’re adding up quick! Yes, we must add it until we’re fully accepted in th country music scene! Plus, we love our country ladies even more and on different levels Than our straight counterparts do. Welcome back Tanya!!
September 13, 2019 @ 3:21 pm
I agree, Lloyd! So glad she’s back but I grew up listening to Love’s The Answer, The Jamestown Ferry, Blood Red and Goin’ Down… and I wore out my cassette of Girls Like Me and I also had it on vinyl! I love her and I am glad she’s back, but something was off about this project. I guess now we know why. Fingers crossed she picks her own songs next time!
September 13, 2019 @ 11:28 am
For the next album: more Tanya & less Brandi.
Let Tanya Tucker pick the songs, give her enough time to feel comfy enough to sing the songs the way she wants…& remind Brandi Carlile it’s not a Brandi Carlile feat. Tanya Tucker project.
September 13, 2019 @ 11:35 am
This is what I’m thinking. It also opens up a wider discussion about Brandi Carlile generally.
September 13, 2019 @ 11:45 am
Following social media and reading articles about the album before it was released, I got the feeling that Brandi (and maybe Shooter also IDK) almost had to give Tanya the confidence to come out with a new album, so I see what you mean about the “coddling” part. I’m glad they convinced her to do the album at all. I’m sorry to hear that it is not exactly what she would have wanted for songs, but I hope she does gain the confidence with all the great publicity she’s getting from the album so that the next album is a bit more “Tanya.”
*Continues listening to album on repeat*
September 13, 2019 @ 12:03 pm
If this Highwomen deal is a movement, why not introduce Tanya to the best young female songwriters out there and have her pick her tunes? Aubrie Sellers and others might be a better match.
September 13, 2019 @ 12:12 pm
Great article. Very interesting and illuminating. Maybe having a lesbian Americana star writing a record for a bonafide country legend who was banging Glen Campbell when she was 17 wasn’t the best approach. I don’t know how Brandi or Shooter get off on trying to steer Tanya in a certain direction when Tanya is 10x the artist they are . Of course Tanya is classy enough to not say anything too negative. The quotes from Brandi really highlight the paint by numbers or cookie cutter approach she or they took. I hope the positive feedback Tanya got gives her confidence to cut the record she wants to cut or is more her than anyone else. It was nice what they did for her but I hope it’s a stepping stone more than a final note. The whole thing really brings to light that artists cutting shit they don’t want to cut not only happens with the Big Machine but with someone more independent. Sometimes people get too big for their britches when they win a award or two. It’s a human problem not just an industry one. I still think it’s cool as hell that she did that track with Leroy and Shooter did a great job on that record and the cover of Delta Dawn. Makes me think Brandi is the weaker link in all this.
September 13, 2019 @ 12:26 pm
That song with Leroy really has what the record was missing. Drop the piano and get some fiddle and steel on there. Wheels of Laredo is just aching for some steel on it.
September 14, 2019 @ 5:23 pm
Dude, Tanya appreciates the ladies just fine.
True story: https://youtu.be/MUg43f-1N70
September 14, 2019 @ 10:10 pm
‘Someone played a song at a house party once about Tanya hitting on her at a bar so I thought, let’s write a lesbian song.’ – Brandi Carlile
September 15, 2019 @ 10:04 am
I just watched it but didn’t understand; can you please explain what the hell that song was about?? Chrissie
September 13, 2019 @ 12:20 pm
This album isn’t Tanya. It needed more fiddle & steel. It seemed like these are just songs Brandy thought about recording & changed her mind. Where are the country music producers? Why are all these people who aren’t country trying to tell us what country should be?
September 13, 2019 @ 9:05 pm
Funny question you ask. Seems like nobody in country was interested in working with Tanya, probably through no fault of her own. It’s ironic, considering somebody outside country could see the value in this artist and exerted the energy to help her get back out there. Where was country? The producers and labels seemed fine to leave Ms. Tucker on the side of the road. Glad Shooter and Carlile saw this project through. It has relaunched Tanya Tucker’s career. Instead of being bitter, you’d think country music fans would be glad. I’m surprised nobody in country saw fit to do this years ago.
September 13, 2019 @ 12:35 pm
I’m not going to wade into all the speculation, but the main thing that bothers me is the perception that Tanya Tucker is an elderly woman. I know several 60+ women who are certified bad asses. Maybe it’s because she came into the public eye at such an early age that she seems older than she is. I actually liked this album, but I do agree that it does lack a bit of edge. Hopefully this will be a story of How Tanya Got Her Groove Back. If anything, I am happy that she is getting a lot of time in the spotlight. Maybe this will give her some extra confidence to make another album and trust her instincts.
September 13, 2019 @ 3:10 pm
Yeah, it can be easy to forget Tanya’s the same age as people like Alan Jackson and Marty Stuart, since she started so young.
Even if she was older, it doesn’t mean she’d be past it, of course.
September 13, 2019 @ 1:02 pm
She’s only 60! Good point on her age and how she seems treated. But I guess Cash was about that age for the first Rick Rubin recording.
I also found it bizarre that Brandi turned around and recorded Wheels of Laredo and released it so soon since it was so specifically written for Tanya. Brandi is a killer singer but I prefer Tanya’s take on it.
I never was a huge fan, but Tanya is iconic and should be respected. This does remind me of the old Country Music industry star machine.
One last point, Rick Rubin is a genius.
September 13, 2019 @ 1:24 pm
I like the new record, but the sound seems to match the pink hair and lip injections in my opinion. I like Tanya a lot, but it seems to me like she’s having a little bit of a midlife crisis. until she accepts the fact that she’s not a spring chicken anymore, she’s probably going to continue to allow herself to be steered in a different direction. not a bad direction mind you, just not the best direction.
September 17, 2019 @ 4:21 am
You could have a whole album of songs about the theme of lost looks, energy, and concern. Might be too close to home for her though. That’s the trouble with building a presentation on something that doesn’t last.
I remember a humorous column by some man who said he had aged enough to become invisible to clerks. There’s material there to be done humorously, wistfully, or longingly.
September 13, 2019 @ 1:33 pm
in the words of Sheldon Lee Cooper:
“Oh who cares?”
The way I see it, the fact that there is a new Tanya Tucker album at all should be celebrated by her fans.
Personally, it’s not my cup of tea. I just can’t find it in me to jump up and down about it.
But the way I see it is this:
Lots of artists have BENEFITTED from the knowledge, judgment and guidance of a producer.
Which seems really weird coming from me because normally I consider “producers” to be ham-handed obstructionists screwing up an artists creative vision
But sometimes something as subtle as going up a key or two, or adding a fermata, or adding a second or third fiddle, or even replacing a strummed guitar part with a fingerstyle one can make colossal amounts of difference in an end product.
When the producer is somebody who is an expert in their field such as Shooter and Brandi, it is probably WISE to heed their input.
I mean, it’s not like Tanya Tucker is someone who necessarily should be handling all the creative decisions.
in my opinion she’s just not blessed with that inherent sense of musical spacing and taste.
and that’s just my opinion
But if I were in a room, and Tanya Tucker and Shooter Jennings/Brandi Carlisle disagreed about some sonic whatever, guitar parts, keys, tempos or whatever
I’d probably err on Shooter and Brandi’s side.
And let’s not get into all this “Country Music needs women and Country’s women shouldn’t be pushed to Americana” business
I dont wanna hear it
What Country Radio and its insular business model wants it can have. because the sooner that broken model implodes the better every single Country artist will be.
Men and women.
So let’s give up this falsified notion that Country Radio matters to Country Music
Country Radio is the PROBLEM
and trying to change what’s played on the radio to fix Country Music is sort of like keeping an old beater car around and if it won’t start just give it some new spark plug wires.
That won’t fix the problem.
At some point you gotta just throw the rustbucket out and get a new car instead of obsessing over the same problems with the old one.
What do you guys think?
September 13, 2019 @ 2:22 pm
The record gets Tanya Tucker back in the thick of things and that’s good not my favorite stuff from Tanya by a long shot but I much prefer her classic country sound to the whole Americana vibe anyway. Hopefully the next record will have Tanya with creative control and be straight forward country without the Americana vibe that frankly I never have been a big fan of .
September 13, 2019 @ 2:42 pm
Trigger, I think you’re spot on about this album. Let’s hope the next one is better, as she is a true talent and icon.
September 13, 2019 @ 2:58 pm
This Carlile person sounds like a presumptious, manipulative creep:
“Carlile says herself,“I had the background on her and I also had templates. I’d say, ‘Hey, Tanya lived in Vegas, so let’s do a gambling song.’ Or, ‘She’s rough around the edges, so let’s make a prison song.’”
Ugh. So Carlile is as superficial as any bro-country hack on music row, just with a different agenda.
“Carlile says, “[Tanya’s] ruggedness, honesty, and brokenness don’t seem like attributes to her, but you and I know they are. We’re still working to convince her of that, but I think it’s going to take us three more records.”
What is Carlile, some kind of combination of a psychotherapist and vampire? And to air her judgment of Tucker’s character in public?
If I were Tucker, I would kick this soul-sucker to the curb. It sounds like Carlile is trying to turn Tucker into an icon alright — just one of Carlile’s own making.
Anyone seen “All About Eve”?
September 14, 2019 @ 8:00 am
September 13, 2019 @ 3:20 pm
I’ve not heard this yet. Hopefully it will at least get people to pay more attention to Tanya and her great contributions to country music.
I just wish more of her music was available on Spotify – at present it seems much of her classic ’70s material isn’t there. It’s not just her, either – much of Conway Twitty’s music is absent, for example. I feel classic country artists aren’t being promoted and celebrated the way they should be and it’s hard for younger people to discover them.
September 13, 2019 @ 4:14 pm
In the immortal words of Steve Earle, “It’s just an album.” While I’m Livin’ only feels like an event because it’s been so long since her last album. There’ll be more albums. Artists from T’s era used to knock 2 or 3 of these out a year.
She wasn’t given enough room to strut. All the great Tanya records have 12 songs and those are the songs that are missing, the hits. And the requisite Delbert McClinton bop. A few of these stately ballads could’ve been swapped out for some less regal uptempos for sure.
Props to Brandi and Shooter for pushing Tanya and getting her back in the saddle again. That’s the real triumph of this record.
September 13, 2019 @ 4:40 pm
For sure Brandi Carlile is doing a great job promoting Brandi Carlile. I’ve always loved Tanya Tucker, but seems to me like we’ve seen more about Brandi Carlile producing this new Tanya music than we’ve seen about Tanya making a new come back.
September 13, 2019 @ 5:10 pm
Excellent point. I love Brandi, but between her project that received a lot of attention this year, the Tanya Tucker record and the Highwomen, it seems like a LOT of promotion. I know women artists have to work harder to be played on radio.
There are so many young female singers that continue to be pushed further and further to the back of the line. Brandy Clark is long overdue for a new release. Cam now feels like a one-hit wonder. Carly Pearce seems to have lost some momentum after a strong start (although I read she has a new duet with Lee Brice coming soon). Let’s give Ingrid Andress, Rachel Wammack, Gone West, and Yola a listen
September 13, 2019 @ 8:41 pm
Totally agree. Carlile is in the middle of having “her moment” I think, and she is everywhere and it is giving me Carlile fatigue. She is a wonderful talent, but not a great match for Tucker imo. But….maybe it is just my annoyance with Highwomen haughtiness….
September 13, 2019 @ 6:10 pm
All hail Brandi Carlisle. She can do no wrong.
September 13, 2019 @ 7:03 pm
“But a lot of the chatter at this week’s AmericanaFest is how great Tanya Tucker is, but how many wished the record would have been just a bit better, how some of the songs feel weak, and if Tanya is truly going to have her late career Johnny Cash moment, it’s going to take a better effort the next time in the studio.”
Lol, what? The only Tanya chatter I’ve heard is literally the exact opposite and I’ve been at the conference in and out of meetings and showcases & parties, etc., all week.
September 13, 2019 @ 7:05 pm
I am so glad Tanya is back !!!
She is a living Legend !!!
September 13, 2019 @ 7:08 pm
I’ve got nearly every TT record from Delta Dawn through the new album and I dont feel like she’s been straight up traditional country since leaving Columbia in the 70’s.
She’s always seemed to blend a lot of genres together effectively and this Americana turn seems natural.
September 14, 2019 @ 2:37 am
Tanya Tucker also addressed most of these issues in her interview with Country Music People magazine a couple of months ago. She likes more of this one than she did her last one so that’s a step in the right direction. And I’m pretty sure, from what she told me, that she really likes the two albums she has ready to go.
September 14, 2019 @ 4:33 am
I completely agree with your article. I listened and didn’t really feel like Tanya’s heart was completely in it. The other thing that bothered me and came across as completely arrogant was the repeated comparisons to the Johnny Cash American recordings. Openly comparing anyone to a star on the level of Johnny Cash is like trying to give yourself a gold medal at the Olympics. Johnny Cash was more than just a country music star, he was a superstar on multiple levels and those American recordings will probably never be matched. And then came the constant hashtags on social media as well. I saw over and over again #outlaw #johnnycash. If you’re going to bill yourself that way then at least make an album that in some way resembles an outlaw album, not an Americana album. I felt like so many of these songs sounded rushed and almost trite. I would also be curious to know what kind of role Shooter played in all this since I haven’t heard him say much about it and I haven’t seen him anywhere on the songwriting credits. It would be interesting to hear his take.
September 14, 2019 @ 7:22 am
I feel you on the Highwomen front. They talk way to much about the mission statement then they do about the actual music. I think some of that got in the way. And now, as I said in my comment, they’re letting the talk go before the music. I’ve seen interviews where Brandi seems to literally be saying “you’re crazy if you don’t love this album, this might be the most important album for years”. And then also the likening the project to Johnny Cash, that’s setting yourself up to fail, no one will ever match Johnny Cash. It’s foolish and even arrogant. And apparently they are no Rick Rubin either. Johnny Cash even said in interviews that the only reason he agreed to do those recordings was because Rick Rubin told him he could basically do whatever he wanted. Tanya Tucker has been picking songs a lot longer and I think she could have made better decisions.
September 14, 2019 @ 8:56 am
I have never seen an artist be given a blank page and carte blanche by a media outlet for what amounts to a promotional piece for a record they just produced and had the primary credits on like ‘Rolling Stone Country’ did for Brandi Carlile. Carlilie used ‘Rolling Stone’ to assert that Johnny Cash is just as significant as Tanya Tucker, and there was no journalist there to challenge that notion in any sort of objective way. It’s a very scary development in the world of music journalism.
September 16, 2019 @ 1:49 pm
I just want to say that while I totally respect your opinion I think Tanya Tucker is so much better than Johnny Cash and I also think she has the best vocals anywhere; she is a living legend; everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. The CD itself while not perfect *and really what is is a masterpiece with some songs beautiful all are either great or very good. Tanya’s voice is a signature voice that is just so amazing. I realize everyone doesn’t feel the same about anything; I just wanted to say there are many like myself who way prefer Tanya to Johnny.
September 14, 2019 @ 8:02 am
People like Brandi C are the ones that is the answer to George S & Alan Jackson’s song “Who committed murder on Country music row”.
Let Brandi have her music but don’t let her steal ‘REAL country music from those of us who prefer that. That’s the problem with the “gays” they want everybody to conform to their way but they don’t want to conform to anyone else’s way. IE: Brandi is using T to make a name & money for herself but wants T to do it Brandi’s way. It won’t work T will eventually end up loosing her identity & true country fans. But that’s her decision! I believe Glen went to his grave loving T but would be disappointed in her allowing someone like Brandy to change her when she didn’t allow him to. Had she, they would have been together the day he died instead of him being with the gold digger he was with.
September 14, 2019 @ 1:21 pm
My only question is why is “gays” in quotation marks?
September 15, 2019 @ 8:33 am
I wondered that myself. I think there is a little more going on here than just dislike for the way Carlile produced the album. Comparing the production on this one relatively small project to the destruction of country music is a little over the top as well.
September 15, 2019 @ 9:03 am
There have been MANY heavy handed producers in the history of country. Blaming the problem on “the gays” seems a bit ridiculous.
September 14, 2019 @ 9:19 pm
No one is making money off this record. It likely won’t even sell 50,000 copies.
September 15, 2019 @ 11:05 am
Sounds like “you” want everyone to conform to your way.
September 14, 2019 @ 8:08 am
Shooter and Brandi are each successful performers. Rubin is a producer with a gift for setting up the room and staying out of the way. In all of the press for the record out there, it seems as if I hear Brandi’s name as much as Tanya’s. Jack White’s Loretta record also had that indie sound, like it was as much about him as the artist.
September 14, 2019 @ 10:51 am
Great point about Van Lear Rose. The Jack White devotees all oohed and ahhhhed it, but the Loretta fanbase didn’t care for it as they felt Jack rock and rolled her sound too much. It’s a repeated phenomenon, a veteran of country music makes a record with a hip or trendy producer, and all of a sudden the hipsters take note and suddenly act as though they have been lifelong fans of said artist..
Had Tanya done this record with a more traditional producer, like a Tony Brown, none of the Americana crowd would be even talking about it.
September 14, 2019 @ 8:29 am
Maybe on her next album she could do a bunch of Rusty Crowe songs.
Atomic Zombie Redneck
September 14, 2019 @ 9:11 am
The fact that the producers disregarded the concerns voiced by the artist definitely changes my perspective on this album. It’s supposed to be her album, not theirs, and the producer’s job is to help the artist realize her vision, not to force their own upon her.
September 14, 2019 @ 10:44 am
Producers have long interfered or been overly helpful. Survivor is one band that suffered from foolish producers. I’m sorry to hear Tanya has likely been used by this so-called producer. I sensed something was wrong in recent social media accounts of Tanya’s. I listened to the Miranda song and I do not listen to Miranda Lambert herself or the male singer she was married to. I think Tanya can make any song her own but if Miranda wrote the song, I would stay clear of it.
September 14, 2019 @ 12:01 pm
It’s funny, this is what I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind for weeks, without knowing the background. It’s kind of ironic because shooter has cime back to Outlaw with a vengeance — really strong stuff. And I’ve love the success Outlaw women have had as late, but I still think the last Margo Price record was heads and shoulders above the rest. No offense to Brandi or Kacey…
September 14, 2019 @ 12:02 pm
I love Tanya loved her and music from the beginning and always will happy to hear her again hope to hear more from her
September 14, 2019 @ 2:58 pm
So it looks like we can soon hear directly from Tanya on many of the points Trigger wrote about:
September 14, 2019 @ 3:04 pm
The first indicator of weirdness behind this album was the involvement of Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings. Brandi Carlile has limited experience at best being a producer, and Shooter Jennings’s main production experience seems to be producing Brandi Carlile. After hearing the dumpster fire of “The House That Built Me” cover, Tanya’s instincts about the song were spot on, and it shows Brandi Carlile as tone deaf to legitimate criticism from a country legend. It’s a shame to see so much positive press coverage about Tanya (the most in well over three decades) squandered by such a lackluster album, and Tanya would be doing herself a favor by seeking out better and more experienced collaborators for her next album.
September 14, 2019 @ 4:32 pm
I hate to criticize Brandi Carlile or Shooter Jennings. I’m thrilled that they love Tanya and made this comeback happen. I don’t know what “country music proper” is or how this differs or what makes this album Americana. There are some excellent songs and vocal performances. Her fans get to hear her sing something different than what she herself would have chosen but what’s wrong with that? I don’t think any of her albums since the early nineties are remotely as interesting as “While I’m Living”, The comeback was so unlikely and such a cause of celebration for her fans that I think it’s silly to criticize it. It’s better and more interesting than most country albums. i always skip “The House That Built Me” , however, because I think it’s a lousy song regardless of who sings it. If that song represents country music proper, no thanks.
September 17, 2019 @ 3:43 am
My problem with The House That Built Me is the clunky line “touch this place or feel it” and how maudlin it is
September 15, 2019 @ 5:27 am
I’m not very familiar with newer artists, since I hate new country; but I will say that once this Carlile gal racks up the same career accomplishments as Tanya, then maybe her opinions will be worth listening to.
September 15, 2019 @ 10:18 am
I am a HUGE Tanya Tucker fan so that’s full disclosure. Since 2012 when she said she’s going to make a CD with brand news songs I waited (& waited). I was so disappointed she cancelled Vegas this year. I have seen her front row center; she is a sweetheart; she signed posters & I gave her posters of Glen and all of that. First off I didn’t think Americana or anything analytical like that. I just listened to the CD and well honestly I absolutely was floored & loved it! I gave some out to friends and family to support this great achievement in what little way I could. That’s not to say this isn’t an interesting review; really thoughtful because it is; in fact I hadn’t thought of anything he said until I read it. I guess the truth is you can tear about anything if you want to. I credit this woman who I didn’t know was gay and it makes absolutely no difference for finally getting Tanya TO RELEASE A CD! Okay it was not perfect but pretty damn close to perfection. Mustang Ridge is amazing. Bring My Flowers Now While I’m Living is absolutely gorgeous and heartbreaking; it is in fact Tanya’s song; the only one on the CD. Every song is catchy and most are great however all are at least really good. When you mention past songs of freaking course we love them but this is a new CD. I agree that the next CD WHICH PLEASE COME OUT WAY SOONER THAN 17 MORE YEARS LIKE MAYBE 17 MONTHS FROM NOW should be packed with everything under the sun that Tanya herself wants to record!! That being said though this CD opened that door and beyond that is a masterpiece in and of itself with Tanya at the throne there can be no wrong. TANYA TUCKER HAS THE BEST VOCALS ANYWHERE! There is so so much out there WHEN TANYA STARTS SINGING YOU KNOW THE WORLD IS BACK ON TRACK; WHAT A FREAKING HOT SEXY RASPY HONEST VOICE SHE HAS AND DELIVERS; she’s a beautiful woman inside & out. There’s not one filler song on this CD;; all are in and of themselves noteworthy. Her version of The House That Built Me was to me far far better than Miranda’s because she breathed life from the deepest regions of her own soul to that song. I think that Tanya sharing with her fans all of her depression and Hard Luck stories help us to know her personally and to want everything in the world for her musically and of course otherwise! The next day I bought Taylor Swift’s CD and after a couple of songs I switched back to While I’m LIvin’ because Taylor sang her songs perfectly but that’s just it she sang her songs TANYA LIVES HER SONGS; THIS IS THE DIFFERENCE.
September 15, 2019 @ 11:03 am
“Much of the record was written by Brandi Carlile and her long-time collaborators, Tim and Phil Hanseroth for Tanya Tucker specifically.”
I think it rarely works when songs are written specifically for an artist and especially specifically for an artist and targeted for a specific album. It’s not organic.
September 15, 2019 @ 10:27 pm
So Brandi Carlile pulled the old “Chet vs Waylon” card and fucked up an album?
September 16, 2019 @ 5:57 am
If somebody like Tanya Tucker can’t make an honest record, what’s the world coming to?
September 16, 2019 @ 6:15 am
Wait.. What? Is that even a thing?
That term was created by a magazine and magazine writers. No artist has ever set out to make a Americana record, and we as consumers don’t go looking for them.
Tyler Childers said it best.
“Americana ain’t no part of nothin”
September 16, 2019 @ 1:55 pm
Your internalized hatred of women is so deep that you may not even understand how far down it goes. It’s evident in your writing and coverage on the careers of many women across this site.
September 16, 2019 @ 7:04 pm
It’s curious how whenever these such comments are left, they’re always centered around something to the effect of “you don’t even understand…” “or you don’t even know…” yet no effort is made to explain what is missing. This down-looking perspective on someone else’s opinion not only forfeits the opportunity to explain to someone what they may not understand, it’s also a cover used by someone who is bereft of an intellectual argument, and so must resort to arrogant down-talking underpinned by anger.
September 17, 2019 @ 4:31 am
Pulling the hater card usually means you’ve got no intellectual argument. You didn’t even try to give an intelligent point. Are the quotes inaccurate? Are important quotes missing?
Next time address the message, not the messenger.
September 17, 2019 @ 5:08 am
You know there are real misogynists out there, right?
October 16, 2019 @ 6:17 am
Trig. I get to thinking about the Jack White and Loretta Lynn thing back in ’04. It was really good. I know that was a long time ago. Times are different now but can you give some kind of perspective on how Tanya’s deal compares to what white was trying to do back then?
November 26, 2022 @ 12:24 pm
Not everyone knows that Tanya is an alcoholic. I imagine that was very hard to work around. She thought her career was washed up when Brandi came along and picked her up and gave her the confidence to even put out an album. There is nothing wrong with trying a slightly new approach to music. Robert Keen did a bluegrass album for example. So we don’t really know what went on in the studio or if there are really any vocal flubs. Tanya is very self deprecating, lacking of self confidence, and this whole project changed her. Maybe you’ll get that country album you want next time.