Tanya Tucker has not released a new album of original music since I was 12. A lot has changed in the last 17 years. For example, I received my driver’s license, smoked my first cigarette, and have experienced one too many drinks, all in true Tucker fashion.

But to be honest, I just truly discovered Tucker. As any bred Oklahoman, I grew up with the sounds of real country music. I have heard “What’s Your Mama’s Name” a few times and “Delta Dawn” is second nature.

Courtesy of Fantasy Records

My interest was spurred in Tucker and her music when I heard Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings were producing a new album. I adore albums that team up legends with contemporary musicians. I still have Loretta Lynn and Jack White’s Van Lear Rose on repeat.

I have now scoured all stores within a 50-mile radius for Tucker albums. I’m just not meant to have a savings account.

Tucker’s new album While I’m Living has taken my love of country to a new level. For me, Tucker’s voice is a stone; one of those stones that you skip on the lake. These stones are smooth and pretty, yet they are tough. They still have rough spots, but these stones are an honest beauty.

While I’m Living starts with “Mustang Ridge.” From the beginning, one can tell this is not the Tucker of controversial folklore; this is the artist Tanya Tucker. After “Mustang Ridge” comes the album’s first single, “The Wheels of Laredo.” This is a heart-wrenching ballad, and Tucker’s vocals lay bare. Each time I listen to the song, I envision a different story with lyrics like:

“I put on my favorite jacket for Jamboozie

I painted up my eyes and wore my beads…

Singing, if I was White-Crowned Sparrow

Well I would float upon the southern skies of blue

But I’m stuck inside the wheels of Laredo

Wishing I was rolling back to you”

A few tracks down one encounters “The Day My Heart Stood Still,” a steady ballad of honest and vulnerable emotion. I read where Tucker sings this song for her father, who was her long-time manager. I found this very interesting. This is a “love” song, but it’s not about romance. Tucker’s voice and Carlile’s lyrics truly define the deep love you feel for the one who has given you everything. When I heard this song, I had to send it to my mom.

Courtesy of Billboard

Side B opens with a cover of Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me.” Lambert released this track in 2010, and I fell in love with it then. Tucker gives this track a new spin, as she sings from the standpoint of being a mom. It’s glorious and sad at the same time while showing that even the strongest in our lives need a shoulder to lean on.

The album closes with “Bring My Flowers Now.” Carlile and Tucker co-wrote this song, and it is the album’s greatest composition. Tucker explains how she wants her flowers while she is living. Don’t wait to bring them to her when she’s gone. Tucker lets her guard down, as she gives this ballad life through her tender vocals. The listener walks away with a reminder to live today and to let those you love know. Tucker’s vocals sting, yet they are comforting. There is still time.

“Bring my flowers now, while I’m living

I won’t need your love when I’m gone

Don’t spend time, tears, or money

On my old breathless body

If your heart is in them flowers, bring ’em on”

So a lot can change in 17 years, and Tucker proves with a little hard luck, that talent does not have an expiration date. She sounds just as vibrant as she did on TNT, yet she embodies a wisdom one can only gain from time. Although Tucker has been in the music game for nearly 50 years, I hope this album is only a prologue to what is still to come.

(Cover image courtesy of Rolling Stone, Danny Clinch.)

Spiritual. Thinker. Music fanatic. Vinyl enthusiast.

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