Released in March 1990, Tennessee Woman was another consistent album which sustained Tanya’s run at the top, marrying together commercial radio-friendly appeal with artistic merit. Jerry Crutchfield was at the helm once more for another good selection of sassy pop-country and sensitive ballads.
The energetic mid-tempo first single, ‘Walkin’ Shoes’, written by Emmylou Harris’s ex-husband Paul Kennerley, falls into the former category. It is more about vibe than lyrical depth, although there are a couple of good lines, as Tanya shows off her independent side, leaving the guy who doesn’t treat her right, wearing her punning “it’s-all-overcoat” as well as the titular “walking shoes”. It was perfect for radio, and yet another top 5 hit for Tanya (#3 on Billboard).
The next single, ‘Don’t Go Out’, teamed Tanya up with the raspy-voiced, blues-influenced T Graham Brown, who combines very well with Tanya. The song was written by Radney Foster and Bill Lloyd, who had recorded the song themselves (as ‘Don’t Go Out With Him’). Reworking the song as a duet gives it a new dimension, as both Tanya and her duet partner swap lines warning each other against dating someone else. It is not a traditional country record by any means, but is still very good, and reached #5 on Billboard.
Also doing well on radio was ‘It Won’t Be Me’, another almost playful song about a painful lesson Tanya just won’t face up to, written by Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters:
“To see her fall apart would be more than I could bear
I’m just too close to that girl in the mirror there
Somebody’s got to tell her, she’s got to let him go –
But it won’t be me”
With the final single release from the album, the label turned to the anguished reproach of ‘Oh What It Did To Me’, a more traditional country waltz. My personal favorite of the singles, although it was the least successful, just missing the top 10, it is an excellent song written by producer Jerry Crutchfield, as the protagonist is betrayed by a cheating spouse trying to sweep it all under the carpet:
“You say when she held you, it did nothing to you,
But oh, what it did to me!
You say when she kissed you, you didn’t feel a thing,
But I felt enough for all three”
Tanya is not known as a songwriter, but she did co-write the title track of this album, ‘There’s A Tennessee Woman (Ben’s Song)’, with Gary Stewart. It is a very personal song indeed, addressed to Tanya’s then partner, actor Ben Reed, father of her baby daughter. Tanya sounds very fragile as she sings of the demands of her life on the road versus his dreams of Hollywood stardom:
“Everybody loves me, but you’re the one I want
If Hollywood don’t work out, and if all your plans fall through
Remember there’s a Tennessee woman would love to share her dreams with you
We could share the same dream, but it’s gotta be in Tennessee”
It is a shame this touching song was not released as a single, but perhaps the label was nervous of publicising Tanya’s relatively unconventional lifestyle for a country star and the fact that she had just become an unmarried mother. The couple had another child together in 1991, but did eventually split.
Also very good is the regretful ballad ‘Your Old Magic’, written by Tony and Troy Martin, as the protagonist finds her ex’s charms have grown old:
“I’m finally over falling under your spell
Your old magic just doesn’t do the trick any more”
The beaty ‘Take Another Run’, from the pens of Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, gets the album off to a bright start as Tanya resolves to revive a faltering relationship which got sidetracked “on the highway to forever”: “Don’t tell me it’s over”, she demands assertively, and you wouldn’t take a bet against her, either here or on the poppy uptempo Paul Davis song ‘Goodbye Baby’, where she tells her love interest to get rid of his cheating girlfriend to make way for Tanya.
There some filler on this album; even a vocalist as committed as Tanya can make songs like ‘Shotgun’ or ‘As Long as There’s A Heartbeat’ moderately interesting, although the latter has quite a pretty tune. Tanya always gives it her all vocally – and you always believe what she is singing is true.