THE RETURN OF TANYA TUCKER: FEATURING BRANDI CARLILE -- An All-Access Peek at the Life of a Flawed but Talented Woman
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Tanya Tucker was nine years old when she started singing at various events in Texas and Arizona. She was eleven when she officially got her first contract. Her father was never too far behind. He was always there to help her when she needed his advice and comfort. She is considered one of the old-time stars of country music, but when her father and mother passed, she didn't have it in her to sing — even when she was poked and prodded by some of the greats in the industry to get back on the road. The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile is about her journey after almost twenty years away from the business.
Brandi Carlile is a singer-songwriter in her own right. She convinces Tanya to come out of retirement to make a new album with her. This movie depicts how they made this album, produced the songs, and what transpired after the record was finished. All the while, Tanya is still struggling with her past drug abuse and dealing with various personal problems. Being in the industry for fifty years didn't necessarily make her welcome back after all her marital problems with Glen Campbell and everything being put in the tabloids for the world to see.
Like many singers and entertainers, Tanya struggled with substance abuse in no part to her husband, country music legend Glen Campbell. They were twenty-something years different in age. Due to these issues, she stepped away from Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry, where she made her name in the country music industry. After seventeen years, she came back with new energy and a vim and vigor of a young person half her age. She is sixty, though, so the years have made her a bit tired from time to time. Carlisle and company have to live with that while making this new album.
This film uses various techniques to tell Tanya Tucker's story. First and foremost is the album's production, new songs, and so forth, with a lot of talking heads and sitting around and talking about the arrangement of the songs on the album. The second part is archival footage of her as a child with her family or performing at various venues and her life with her husband, Glen Campbell. The third is after the album is finished, and she has to see what her life brings next, whether it's awards for the album, singing at tribute concerts for her friend Loretta Lynn, or just taking in this newfound success. She had to move forward with her life, and she did that.
All good documentaries have to draw the viewer into what is being depicted on screen, and this one uses Tanya Tucker's story and her music. Songs like "Delta Dawn," "Texas, Love Me Like You Used To," or her newest hit off the record they are making in the documentary Bring My Flowers Now can express her story. They get to the heart of this woman's life like no other way can. She is a storyteller in her songs — a rare gift for singers. Country singers have it more than others do, though. Even though I am not the biggest fan of country music, I was drawn to her story.
The Return of Tanya Tucker brings new and old audiences into the life of this woman who has struggled with her own demons. From relationships to substance abuse and poverty at a young age, she has experienced a lot of heartaches. She used these moments to bring the audience into her life via her songs. This documentary shows a different side to her where people can see into her life and process. That process helped bring her back to a place where people could express their love for her. Music is an expressive medium, and what you give as an artist can be returned tenfold by the fans and people buying albums and going to concerts. That's the ultimate show of respect. This film does a great job of showing all sides of this flawed but talented woman.
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile is now playing in theaters.