Returning to the road after nearly two decades away, Tanya Tucker continues to set herself apart from everyone in music with hear and passion that cannot be topped.
Pop culture lovers often refer to any powerful woman as being a queen. Whether it’s Janelle Monae pushing the boundaries of art and fashion or Kacey Musgraves telling an over-excited Coachella crowd that she “didn’t fucking say yee,” queen is a term dispensed like Pez in the ongoing cultural dialogue found throughout social media today. The use of the word is meant to signify power and courage. It says to the world, “this person doesn’t have to put up with anyone’s bullshit, and they know it, so respect them.”
Tanya Tucker is a queen in the truest sense of the world. For nearly fifty years the “Delta Dawn” singer and songwriter has been captivating music fans around the globe with grounded storytelling and elegantly raspy vocals that speak to the human condition. Her catalog speaks to the trials and tribulations of the working class, encouraging the labored masses to keep their hopes high and remember what matters most.
Having spent the better part of the new millennium away from the spotlight, Ms. Tucker is preparing to release a new album co-written by Brandi Carlisle later this year. Her return could not be more timely, which was evident at her April 12 performance at Kalamazoo State Theater in Southwest Michigan. Backed by a banner barring her iconic cowboy hat logo and a large band that included her daughter, Tucker ripped through a forty-plus year career in under two-hours with a ferocity unmatched by many of her genre peers. Along the way, she shared stories from her life in and out of music, as well as a few details about her upcoming studio album — her first studio album in nearly two decades.
The audience was mostly older, with many having long accepted their greying hair as a part of life to be celebrated rather than hated. Like Tucker, her fans seem to see their continued existence as a sign of success because it proves they survived whatever life threw their way. Every person in that room had a story to tell, and many connected the songs on stage to moments when their personal journeys changed. For some, that meant grieving the loss of their parents during “Two Sparrows In A Hurricane,” but for others, it was embracing the rebel spirit that lived within during “Texas (When I Die).”
Tucker also shared several covers of songs that had impacted her life at critical moments in time. Each one gave new meaning to the track, but none stood out more than her take on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” which was coupled with Johnny Cash’s timeless “Ring of Fire.” Tucker’s often gravelly voice took The Boss’ already grounded storytelling and added additional grit to the proceedings. I would do anything to hear a studio version of her take, and based on the response, many who were in the room would give the same.
Perhaps “queen” is too plain a term for Tanya Tucker. Now in her sixties, the country icon is every bit the badass she has always been, if not more so. She’s a tequila-sipping, horse-saving, silver-tongued talent whose seen the best and worst life has to offer. Her songs reflect that journey, even if many were written by people other than herself, and her delivery channels the struggle of blue collar workers with a silver lining of hope that is impossible to deny. She is, for lack of a better term, the voice of anyone who has reached rock bottom and questioned if they’d ever see the light of day again. She’s a beacon of positivity in an otherwise dark world, fighting each day to kick the ass of anyone who tries to put her in a box.