Country singer Tanya Tucker has been part of the sonic landscape of America since the release of the iconic song, “Delta Dawn” in 1972, when she was just 13 years old.
Since then, she’s been a fixture of radio, television and the tabloids (thanks to her very public relationship with a much older musician Glen Campbell) and her allegedly wild lifestyle. Yet it has taken the arrival of “The Return of Tanya Tucker, Featuring Brandi Carlile” directed by Kathryn Horan, to feel that we’ve finally been introduced to the “real” Tanya Tucker.
This touching and genuine film grew out of an attempt to document the production of Tucker’s first album in 17 years, “While I’m Livin’“ which she made with singer Brandi Carlile and co-producer Shooter Jennings in L.A. in 2019. Horan was brought into the project the day before the album began recording.
The project turned into far more than documenting the making of an album. Full of vintage family documentary footage sourced from Tucker’s basement in Nashville, the insightful documentary is a deep delve into the history and world of Tanya Tucker.
Growing up poor, Tucker’s father had the belief that Tucker could make it as a country singer. They moved the entire family across the country to chase the dream of her stardom. The larger-than-life influence of Tucker’s father looms large over the film, much as he did over Tucker’s life. He was the only manager she had until his death in the early 2000s. When he died, Tucker drifted away from the music world.
One of Carlile’s goals for making “While I’m Livin’ this album was to ensure that Tucker was able to take her proper place among the pantheon of country music greats. In the same way that Rick Rubin’s “ American Recordings” (1994) brought American country great Johnny Cash a whole new generation of late career fans and respect, this album is Carlile’s attempt to do the same for Tucker.
THE RETURN OF TANYA TUCKER FEATURING BRANDI CARLILE is now in release in Canada through Mongrel Media. This review was filed from South By Southwest 2022.