After seven long years, Tanya Tucker is finally back with My Turn , a collection of covers of classic country songs, recorded as a tribute to her late father and mentor, Beau Tucker. This album is different from anything Tanya has done in the past. We’ve never heard her sound so “retro” before, and it struck me that aside from the common knowledge that Tucker is a huge Elvis, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn fan, we haven’t heard a lot about her musical influences, up to now. Unlike her contemporaries Lorrie Morgan and Patty Loveless, she’s never made a habit of including a classic cover or two on her albums. My Turn , therefore, gives us a rare insight into the music that influenced this country legend who has been a presence on the country charts for nearly 40 years.
Teaming up with producer Pete Anderson, Tucker chose mostly songs that were favorites of her late father, and wisely avoided songs that have been covered countless times by others, the exception being “Crazy Arms”. I was surprised to see this song included in the track listing, since it was recently covered by Tucker’s Saguaro Road labelmate Patty Loveless. But while Loveless’ version is drenched with a wailing steel guitar and her trademark “mountain siren” vocals, Tucker takes a much more understated approach that is closer to the Ray Price original.
I was already very familiar with all of the songs, except for the opening track “Wine Me Up.” Originally a hit for Faron Young in 1969, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s followed by a version of Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” that is very faithful to the original, and Buck Owens’ “Love’s Gonna Live Here” featuring guest vocals from Jim Lauderdale. “Love’s Gonna Live Here” is the lead single from the album, and was previously reviewed here at My Kind of Country.
“After The Fire Is Gone” was the Grammy Award-winning first duet by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn back in 1970. Tucker and Pete Anderson wanted Billy Ray Cyrus to be Tanya’s duet partner, but mercifully he was unavailable and Tucker is joined instead by The Grascals, who provide the harmony vocals.
One of the great difficulties in remaking classic songs is finding a way to pay homage to the original artists, while still finding a way to put one’s own twist on the songs. Tucker and Anderson decided to add a Tex-Mex flavor — which works surprisingly well — to Charley Pride’s “Is Anybody Going To San Antone,” which features Flaco Jimenez playing the accordian. Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me” and Wynn Stewart’s “Big, Big Love” are given similar treatment, with the legendary Jo-El Sonnier providing the accordian tracks on the latter.
The highlights of the album are “I Love You A Thousand Ways” and “Walk Through This World With Me”, which were hits for Lefty Frizzell and George Jones respectively. Tanya’s vocals are stellar and drenched with emotion on both tracks. She likewise does justice to Merle Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever”, which closes the album. Though not one of the Hag’s better remembered tunes, the theme is perfect for the free spirit that is Tanya Tucker. Tucker has always been a huge Haggard fan, and according to her autobiography, Merle would have welcomed the chance to be more than just friends. He wrote his 1983 hit “What Am I Gonna Do (With The Rest Of My Life”) about her.
I was slightly disappointed in “You Don’t Know Me”. Although Tanya pours her heart and soul into this Eddy Arnold classic, Rhonda Vincent’s harmony vocals are somewhat overbearing and detract from, rather than enhance, the song. I’m a great admirer of Vincent’s solo work, but with her bluegrass background, she seems like an odd choice for the sole countrypolitan song on this album. This track would benefit greatly from a remixing without the harmony vocals. Tucker’s heartfelt vocal performance is strong enough that it could have stood on its own. Overall, however, this is a minor production misstep, which is easily forgiven because the rest of the album is so good.
This collaboration between Tucker and Saguaro Road is supposed to be a one-time deal, but the results are so satisfying, I’m hoping that they’ll team up for another project and that we won’t have to wait another seven years for it.