By Bee Delores
Sweet Western Sound magnifies every crevice of existence, and you may just see yourself reflected back in its dazzling looking glass.
3. Breakfast in Birmingham (ft. Brandi Carlile)
4. Waltz Across a Moment
5. Ready As I’ll Never Be
6. The List
7. Letter to Linda
8. City of Gold
9. That Wasn’t Me
10. When the Rodeo is Over (Where Do the Cowboys Go?)
“Tanya, your colors are showing,” the late Billy Joe Shaver sings in his deep Texas drawl on ‘Tanya.’ The 50-second performance crackles from an unrelenting fire stoked down in his soul, setting up Tanya Tucker's new record, Sweet Western Sound, as a soul-stirring statement piece.
The follow-up to 2019’s Grammy-winning While I’m Livin’, the album (produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings) finds Tanya Tucker painting with every color of her voice. She’s weathered and wise, her rasp some otherworldly force, and she remains undeterred in exposing every part of herself.
The singer’s performances are world-weary, often haunting, and impart nuggets of wisdom only earned through a well-lived existence. And goodness, has Tucker lived quite the life. “It’s a long and lonely river to the sea,” she sings on ‘Kindness,’ a ragged plea for compassion.
Time bears down upon her shoulders, evidenced in one of the set’s most emotionally-charged moments. ‘Waltz Across a Moment,’ in which Tucker relays the album title, pitches her voice into a whirlwind of sorrow and grit. “Just like the California sun, I think I’m going down,” she sings, “Come and meet me in the shadows of this drunken, broken town.” Tucker practically buckles under the weight of her own words, yet she plows forward into the sun’s dusky end, seeking out her father’s guidance.
A left-hook sucker punch, ‘Ready as I’ll Never Be’ sees Tucker mourning the passing of time and confronting death. “Even if I saw it coming, even if I wanted to / You’re just going to the one place left that I can’t follow you,” she sings, honoring “all you outlaws and the Opry queens” that have faded from this life.
‘Letter to Linda,’ the crown jewel, honors another icon, Linda Ronstadt, and her influence on Tucker’s own work. “Rest easy, Linda, you already stole the show,” Tucker’s words rain back down into the earth. Her voice claws at the air, and it's within these moments that Tucker proves she endures as one of country’s greatest vocal storytellers. Time has only ripened her abilities.
Sweet Western Sound acknowledges the past, both hers and those who came before, while carving out themes about loneliness and the end of one’s life. Existence, it seems, is all too fleeting, and so she performs as though her life depends on it. And maybe it does. Sweet Western Sound magnifies every crevice of existence, and you may just see yourself reflected back in its dazzling looking glass.
Sweet Western Sound is out on 2nd June via Fantasy Records
For more on Tanya Tucker, see below: