Tanya Tucker's time: new documentary on Country musician

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday November 15, 2022
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Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile
Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile

For a number of years, "younger" music industry people have been calling our attention to older performers that some folks might have forgotten, rescuing them from the dustbin (or cutout rack) of obscurity. Examples include musicians Jeff Tweedy (Mavis Staples) and Jack White (Loretta Lynn), producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash), and Anti- records' Andy Kaulkin (Bettye Lavette).

Grammy-winning queer singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile, who recently played a part in Joni Mitchell's return to live performance, was instrumental in the revival of country music legend Tanya Tucker. Carlile co-produced Tucker's 2019 album "While I'm Livin,'" for which she won a couple more Grammys and co-wrote most of the songs (including "Bring My Flowers Now" with Tucker, from which the album gets its title). The recording sessions for that album make up a considerable portion of Kathlyn Horan's documentary "The Return of Tanya Tucker: featuring Brandi Carlile" (Sony Pictures Classics).

Combining studio footage, along with numerous vintage visual and audio clips, Horan paints a compelling portrait of Texas-born and Arizona-raised Tucker as an influential country music artist, one of the few original female performers associated with the "outlaw country" scene. Being managed by her father, and achieving success in her early teens, was both a blessing and a curse. By 16 she had a record contract and made regular appearances onstage and on TV.

But she hit a rough patch and her career got "distorted a little bit." Some of the distortion included her substance-fueled relationship with Glen Campbell who was 19 years her senior. Among the many other things we learn about Tucker is that while she had a longstanding friendship with Loretta Lynn (who was often offering to send her money), her heroes, including Elvis and Merle Haggard, were all men. Like Elvis, Tucker was not one to get up on stage and stand still.

Regardless of her talent, we witness Tucker's insecurity, during the more recent footage which involves the recording of "While I'm Livin'." In fact, there are numerous touching sequences in Carlile and Tucker's interactions. Particularly poignant moments occur when she tells Tanya that she considers her to be as important as Dolly Parton when it comes to the country genre. The scene in which they begin the co-songwriting process for "Bring My Flowers Now" is magical, and the way Carlile helps Tucker through the recording of the cover of "The House That Built Me" is especially moving.

The documentary concludes with a series of significant career turning points for Tucker. Among those are her return to the concert stage, the warm reception the new album received, including love from Grammy voters, and so much more.

It goes without saying that since the beginning of the 21st century, Carlile has been embraced by both the LGBTQ+ and straight communities alike. However, if you weren't a Tanya Tucker fan before, this doc has the potential to make you one. Rating: B+


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