The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile is a heartwarming documentary about the creation and release of Tanya Tucker’s 2019 album “While I’m Livin” – her first studio album in 17 years. Even if you aren’t a country music fan, this film is worth the watch.
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile begins with Brandi Carlile, Shooter Jennings (son of Waylon Jennings), and Carlile’s two songwriting partners Tim Hanseroth and Phil Hanseroth pacing nervously around a recording studio. They are waiting for Tanya Tucker.
They’ve convinced Tanya Tucker to work on a new album of mostly original songs, but they know she’s nervous about it and not 100% sure it’s a good idea. When she arrives we see a 60 year old woman with bright pink hair, a smoker’s raspy voice, and the need for a shot of tequila to warm her up.
Brandi Carlile loves and admires Tanya Tucker and has since she was old enough to listen to music with intent. She wrote the new songs (and co-writes another one with Tanya as the recording proceeds), but what she’s doing in the studio is different. She’s the cheerleader, the encouragement, the moral support that keeps Tanya in front of a microphone.
Brandi credits Tanya as a major influence in her life and that of all other women country musicians. Her deeper agenda is to make sure younger people realize what an icon Tanya Tucker is in the industry and how deep her significance extends. This film and the album make it crystal clear that Tanya Tucker is a powerhouse.
Dear reader, when Tanya steps up to that microphone and sings, it’s still magic. It’s not the 13 year old voice of a girl singing “Delta Dawn.” It’s a voice of a lifetime. It’s a voice of emotion and knowing. The documentary concentrates on the song “Bring My Flowers Now.” That’s the one Tanya helped write while they worked.
The film isn’t a biopic. Director Kathlyn Horan skillfully weaves bits of Tanya’s life and past into the film, but it’s used as part of the storytelling around how the album was created. It isn’t the main focus.
The album (on Spotify and many other places) is mostly new, a few covers. When it was finished, Tanya sang “Bring My Flowers Now” at Loretta Lynn’s birthday celebration to huge acclaim. Tanya began a press tour and concert tour. This was pre-COVID, so the touring came to a halt in 2020.
The album won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album and Best Country Song for “Bring My Flowers Now.”
This is a beautiful film. Tanya Tucker deserves huge recognition and honor for her talent. Plus all the kudos to Brandi Carlile for helping boost her personal icons like Tanya Tucker and Joni Mitchell in the public’s attention.
You can see the film on Netflix and some other streamers or rent it on Prime Video.