Country legend Tanya Tucker, it seems we must take that oft-used morsel a step further to say we didn’t know what we had until she was out of the limelight and thankfully returned. Whether or not Tucker’s flawless new record, While I’m Livin’, is some sort of “comeback album” or not isn’t the point. The point is that 16 years after her last record of new material, the 60-year old, Seminole, TX born outlaw hero with dozens of Top 10 hit singles to her credit wanted to be heard again. Produced by Shooter Jennings and arguably one of the hottest names in the country and Americana world these days, Brandi Carlile, this 10-song collection is a powerful, expertly crafted statement from a singular country music voice.
Though Tucker herself only had a hand in writing one of the tracks, her instantly recognizable, emotive, dusty rasp claims every song as her own. And, frankly, that applies to the well-known cover choices, including “The House That Built Me,” made famous by Miranda Lambert a decade ago. As aching and quietly powerful as Lambert’s version is, the weight of someone with Tucker’s hard-earned perspective looking back through the halls of her childhood home is impossible to shed easily.
Primarily consisting of acoustic-based instrumentation, While I’m Livin’ fits more easily into a folksy Americana realm than the more straight-forward honky-tonk country of Tucker’s award-collecting, platinum-selling days of the ‘70s, ’80s and ‘90s. Even when the tempos and textures alternate, the record as a whole feels cohesive and confident. Soulful gospel touches accentuate the impressively soft vocals in “Wheels of Laredo,” while “Mustang Ridge” is a jaunty, roots tune featuring an unapologetic Tucker singing “Now a women’s life ain’t just a list of the word things she has done. Sometimes the past is hard to outrun.”
The effervescent, bouncy “I Don’t Owe You Anything” is a Country ’n Western middle-finger to an ex that’s surely going to miss her far more than the other way around. The very next song, the folk-inflected “The Day My Heart Goes Still” seamlessly flips the script, conveying the sweetest feelings she has for her father. If anyone can switch the salty and the sweet better than Tucker does here, we’ve yet to hear it.
In a genius bit of song sequencing, the album’s final song is not only the star of the show, but it’s the kind of song that makes such a long wait for new music so very well worthwhile. The only song with Tucker as a co-writer, “Bring My Flowers Now” is a brave, vulnerable look at mortality and the way we all too often fail to show love and appreciation for those around us until it’s far too late. On top of a mournful, stark piano, Tucker sings “I won’t need your love when I’m gone, don’t spend your time, tears and money on my old breathless body.” The profundity of such a bare-bones directive is given even more urgency when she sings later that “days are long, but the years are lightning.”
There’s no telling when or if we’ll hear another Tanya Tucker record, and that’s fine. While I’m Living is triumphant proof that the best artists speak only when they have something to say and that we should appreciate our living legends while, indeed, they are living.
Country icon Tracy Lawrence has released a new original album, his first in six years. Made In America is a collection of songs that lean on Lawrence’s signature country, rock and blue production, and pays homage to the hardworking men and women that make up the fabric of this country.
It is noteworthy too that on this album, the country singer co-penned 8 of the 12 songs. “This is my most personal album I’ve ever made. It’s something I’m very proud of and celebrates the American worker and everything that’s good about our country,” says Lawrence. He continues, “I co-wrote a number of the songs, pouring my heart and soul in each of them. I feel it will resonate with my fans and country music lovers across this nation.”
Over the last 25 years, the 51-year-old has firmly rooted himself as a staple in the genre, Made In America is further proof of that, with both traditional-leaning and contemporary country fans, on songs like the title track or the powerful “When The Cowboy’s Gone.”
Lawrence is currently on the road on his Made In America Tour through the US. Come January 2020, he will join fellow Arkansas native, Justin Moore, as a co-headliner on his Late Nights and Longnecks Tour.
Made In America (Tracy Lawrence, Rick Huckaby, Paul Nelson)
Forgive Yourself (Tracy Lawrence, Rick Huckaby)
Running Out of People To Blame (Tracy Lawrence, Carson Chamberlain, Mark Nesler)
When The Cowboy’s Gone (Tracy Lawrence, Carson Chamerlain, Wyatt McCubbin)
Nothin’ Burns Like You (Tracy Lawrence, Carson Chamberlain, Mark Nesler)
First Step To Leaving (Tracy Lawrence, Rick Huckaby, Mark Nesler)
It Ain’t You (Tracy Lawrence, Rick Huckaby, Paul Nelson)
Givin’ Momma Reasons To Pray (Shawn Camp, Chris Stapleton)
Work On My Willie (Tracy Lawrence, Rick Huckaby, Flip Anderson)
Chicken Wire (Rick Huckaby, Monty Criswell)
Just The South Coming Out (Rick Huckaby, Wade Kirby)
Stay Back A Hundred Feet (Rick Huckaby, Money Criswell)
In literal terms, the recording of Gill’s new album wasn’t a long protracted process, but in terms of emotional depth and poignancy, Gill admits this isn’t an album he could have delivered earlier in his career.
“Jody Williams, who runs BMI, is one of my oldest friends. I sent him the record after we got done,” Gill tells Sounds Like Nashville. “He said, ‘You couldn’t have made this record 20 years ago. This is a record of your life experience,’ and it’s true. It takes a while to figure things out and not be judgmental, and be vulnerable to tell the truth.”
Releasing Aug. 23rd, Gill’s new album is a powerful collection of songs about life, love, regret and faith that touches on topics as unsettling as abuse and as celebratory as his love for his mother and his appreciation for Merle Haggard. “All these songs have my life in them, and a lot of truth in them too,” he shares. “In talking about this album, I didn’t realize how emotional it would be, but it really is. It’s excruciating sometimes. It’s hard to be vulnerable, so it’s been interesting seeing me try to talk about it because it is a lifetime and not just a three-minute snippet of a cute song that’s trying to get you to tune in on the radio.”
The Oklahoma native has reached a point in his career where he has nothing to prove. Known for such beloved hits as “Go Rest High on that Mountain,” “When I Call Your Name” and “I Still Believe in You,” Gill has enjoyed a level of success few artists ever attain. He’s won 21 Grammy Awards and 18 CMA Awards, eight ACM Awards and numerous other accolades, including a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and he’s touring with the Eagles, lending his distinctive voice and legendary guitar skills to the iconic rock band. (They are scheduled to play their landmark Hotel California album in its entirety at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Sept. 27, Sept. 28 and Oct. 5. The shows will also include an additional set of their greatest hits.)
“My hope is to continue to get better at playing, singing and writing and I think I have,” he says. “If you listen to my first record in 1974 and watch the years past and the records unfold, the songs get better. I sing better and I play better, and that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, thinking you are going to be Michael Jackson and sell the most records in the whole wide world. It’s about just putting one song in front of the next. I love making music.”
Co-produced with Justin Niebank, Gill recorded this new MCA album barefoot in his home studio, and from the start, he knew how he wanted it to sound. “I like Willie Nelson’s ‘Red Headed Stranger’ album a lot,” he says. “I don’t think this record sounds anything like it. It’s not a concept record or anything like that, but what was so great about Willie’s record is the space, the simpleness of that record, and that’s what I was trying to do. I had this neat collection of songs and I didn’t want the music to get in the way. I didn’t want a bunch of big harmonies or solos to get in the way or electric guitar, so I didn’t even play electric guitar on this record. It’s a record of songs and I wanted to be willing to bare my soul. It’s just where I am today.”
One of the most personal songs is the tender “When My Amy Prays,” inspired by his wife Amy Grant’s faith. “That’s a song that tells the truth,” he says. “Everybody assumes that I’m married to Amy and I’m a church boy and I grew up that way. I’m not and I didn’t. I’m trying to be honest and vulnerable enough to say that she’s that and I’m not.”
Another poignant song Gill serves up on the new project is “A Letter to My Mama.” His friend Dawn Sears, acclaimed singer and member of the Time Jumpers who passed away from cancer in 2014, encouraged him to record it. “I wrote that with Dean Dillon about 18 or 19 years ago and I had never recorded it,” Gill says. “I always loved the song and Dawn heard me sing that song somewhere, soundcheck or at a gig and she said, ‘Why haven’t you recorded that song for your mom?’ And I go, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t found the right record.’ And she goes, ‘Well promise me you’ll record that song for your mom.’ I made her that promise, so I got to fulfill that promise to my old friend Dawn. My mom is 93. I’m glad my mom got to hear it before she’s gone. That means a lot to me now.”
Gill admits there’s a lot of songs he think people will easily relate to and some he thinks might make people uncomfortable. “I think probably the toughest song is ‘Forever Changed,’” he admits. “You are talking about abuse and that’s pretty rough.”
So which song on the new project is the most autobiographical? “‘The Price of Regret’ is me,” Gill says. “Everybody—if they told the truth— would tell you they live with some regret. I wouldn’t do anything over, but I still have regrets about things in my life. I learned some things from them, but it also would have been nice to not have made some mistakes. I don’t have any judgment on race. I don’t have any judgment on rich or poor, Democrat or Republican. If you haven’t made a mistake or two, you haven’t learned anything. Everyone knows the price of regret. I love the line in the last verse ‘Everyone’s broken. Everyone’s scarred. All the stuff we thought we needed winds up in the yard.’”
Gill admits writing songs helps him process emotions and says they can be great conversation starters. “It’s best to have the conversation about race, about abuse, about everything, even about something positive like how much you love somebody,” he shares. “You’ve got to let them know. Communication, I’m not great at it in my real life, but I can talk things out and find my way through songs to kind of grieve and talk and tell stories. I just like telling stories. What I like about most of these songs is they have a little bit of hope in them.”
Gill is planning to share new music when he tours this fall, and he’s hoping people will hear the new album and like it. When asked if it’s being promoted to country radio, he laughs and says, “You are asking the wrong guy. I’ve been thrown out the door by country radio years ago. I’m going to keep trying and [am] hopeful something will show up that they like, but no expectations. . . The label is doing these lyric videos with three or four of the songs so far. I’m not all that up on how things really work these days with the technology and the way people find stuff. I’m a little lost, just trying to find a home.”
Known as one of the nicest guys in Nashville (or any other city) Gill prefers communicating directly with people and readily admits technology isn’t his thing. “I’ve never sent a text. I’ve never posted a Facebook point of view or any of that stuff,” he says. “As a performer, it’s the most disheartening thing when you look out there and are singing your guts out and playing your heart out, and people paid to come see you and all they do is text on their phone and look at their phone. They are disengaged. It just kind of breaks your heart when you are out there trying to do something for folks.”
Though he always hopes his songs resonate with listeners, Gill’s reason for creating music is more personal. “I love making music, even if it’s just for me,” he says. “I’ve never done this for anyone other than for me first. That sounds selfish, but it’s the truth. I couldn’t imagine not being creative and the results have never made me waver in any way, shape or form, whether it’s been a struggle and nobody heard the records or everybody bought the records and they were the biggest hits in the world. That never moved the needle either way for me. I just kept trying.”
Kristin Chenoweth will pay homage to her biggest influences on her upcoming studio album, For the Girls. Announced Monday (8/8), the record will feature 12 reimagined versions of classics made famous by Barbra Streisand (“The Way We Were”), Dinah Washington (“What a Diff’rence A Day Made”), Doris Day (“When I Fall In Love”), Patsy Cline (“Crazy”), Judy Garland (“The Man That Got Away”), Carole King (“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”) and Linda Ronstadt (“Desperado”).
“I really wanted to pay homage to all the women singers who have influenced me over the years,” Chenoweth said in a press release about the record. “I wanted to make something that men could also enjoy, but this is by the girls and for the girls. These songs have all stood the test of time, and most of them are songs that I grew up listening to. It was a little intimidating, because people like Judy, Barbra and Dolly are the people who made me want to be a singer in the first place. I wanted to pay homage to these women and do them proud, but I also wanted to put my own stamp on it. And I think I was able to do that.”
Several collaborations will appear on the record, with Ariana Grande, Dolly Parton, Jennifer Hudson and Reba McEntire lending their voices to different songs. To give a taste of what to expect, Chenoweth debuted her collaboration of “I Will Always Love You,” featuring Parton.
“‘I Will Always Love You’ is a song I’ve loved since I was a child. I used to think, ‘One day I’m going to sing that song.’ Little did I know that I’d get to sing it with the queen herself,” she explained to ETonline.
Fans will be able to get their hands on the legendary album when it releases on September 27.
For the Girls track listing:
“The Way We Were”
“You Don’t Own Me” with Ariana Grande
“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”
“I Will Always Love You” with Dolly Parton
“What a Diff’rence a Day Makes”
“When I Fall In Love”
“The Man That Got Away”
“I’m A Woman” with Jennifer Hudson & Reba McEntire
“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”
“I Wanna Be Around”
For the first time in his career, Scotty McCreery will head overseas for his first headlining tour dates. Visiting both the United Kingdom and Germany, the South Carolina native is looking forward to seeing his fans across the pond.
“I’ve received numerous e-mails and social media messages from fans asking me to perform in the UK and Germany,” said McCreery in a press release. “I am happy to finally announce that I’m coming over in October and I cannot wait to be there.”
The trek will begin in Berlin, Germany, and visit Cologne, Germany; London, UK; and Manchester, UK. Tickets for the UK dates will go on sale beginning Friday, August 9 at 9 a.m. BST via gigst.rs/Scotty. Tickets for the Germany shows are on sale now here. After returning to the U.S., McCreery spend most of November opening for Old Dominion’s Make It Sweet Tour.
Sometimes it’s best to let fate take control. That’s what Dierks Bentley did when he found himself with an adoptable puppy in his arms during an appearance on the TODAY Show. In support of Dogust, the universal birthday for shelter dogs, the show had several animals looking for homes on set. During the third hour of TODAY, Bentley was invited to hold one of the pops while letting viewers see the sweet faces available for adoption. But those at home didn’t have a second to pick Goose as the Bentley family was eagerly texting the country superstar to bring home the four-legged friend.
“I’ve been texting back-and-forth with my wife and kids,” he later told hosts Jenna Bush Hager and Willie Geist, while the dog’s adoption paperwork was being taken care of. “They really want a third dog. My wife for her birthday said, ‘All I want is a third dog.’” Initially resistant because they already have two adopted dogs, Bentley gave in. “I feel a connection,” he shared. “I feel it’s meant to be.” He also explained the deeper connection being that he calls his daughter Goose. Bentley’s three kids, as well as his wife Cassidy, are eager to meet their new family member. “They’re going crazy,” he said with a chuckle. “They’re going to fly to Jones Beach tomorrow. They’re all going to come to Jones Beach tomorrow — just to see the dog. They don’t care about Dad.” Goose will likely be Bentley’s new road buddy during the remaining dates of his wildly-successful Burning Man Tour. Dates for the trek run through September.