TOM NETHERLAND | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Make way for country music’s explosive Tanya Tucker.
She’s TNT as in dynamite.
As experienced last night at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tennessee, country’s longtime pistol fired with incredible aim. Her delivery? At times, straight to the heart. Other times, to the mind. Yet at all times, Tucker bore the weight of an artist whose substance remains fully armed.
Tucker performed as a benefit to the Appalachian School of Pharmacy. She opened wide her heart and delivered a healthy dose of music as medicine for the soul.
An hour before show time, the Paramount’s lobby teemed with eager fans. Bristol’s Edd Hill stood patiently while he recalled a much younger Tucker.
“I saw her at a county fair in western Kentucky,” said Hill. “She was pretty much a child back then. She had a voice, even for a little girl.”
Still does at the age of 58.
Yet before Tucker drew a bead on the near-capacity crowd, Kaitlyn Baker demonstrated her country ways and means for 30 minutes through six songs. A native of Pound, Virginia, the vivacious singer struck most memorably as she delivered “Heart of Appalachia.”
Therein, Baker sang like a raindrop falls. Grace clung to each lyric sung.
Meanwhile, Tucker held court backstage during a brief meet-and-greet with a large cadre of fans. She smiled, posed for photos, said thanks a lot and made a batch of folks happy.
Moments after 8, a curtain parted, the lights sunk low and Tucker bounded on stage.
“Hello Bristol!” Tucker said.
Nuclear since the days of Nixon, Tucker’s fuse connected straightaway via 1992’s “Some Kind of Trouble.” Through a fast set ripe with classics, she highlighted her knee-buckling tremolo as if she were still the teenager who stole America’s heart with 1972’s “Delta Dawn.”
Exquisite yet muscular, Tucker sang as if intent upon accessing one’s innermost frailties on 1994’s “Hangin’ In.” Her raw though meaty voice bore decades of life led as a star and as one who has lived through loss such to keep hangin’ in.
Meanwhile, she grinned and gyrated through 1988’s “If It Don’t Come Easy” as if she and the song were brand new. Clad in black and sparkling like a sky full of stars, the invigorated singer eased through plentiful hits of yore including 11988’s “Strong Enough to Bend” with remarkable aplomb.
“To entertain you tonight is an honor for me,” Tucker said.
“Some of them weren’t even born when ‘Delta Dawn’ was new,” she said.
Spry as a Texan fiddler, she rip-snorted through 1975’s “San Antonio Stroll” with a devilish grin and whips of her lush blonde hair. On stage and outta sight, double T relished her time in yet another in a long line of spotlights.
She shifted as deftly as a cloud. Take when Tucker’s voice vibrated with a heart-fluttering touch on “Lizzie and The Rainman.” She returned to 1975 and a teen of 16. Vulnerability hugged those lyrics like a mama would her child.
Svelte as suggestion, Tucker hip-swiveled through 1990’s “Walking Shoes” as if she were still young. And she is. Tender via “Love Me Like You Used To” yet chili pepper hot amid “I’ll Come Back As Another Woman,” she belted haymakers with the ease of the legend that she’s become.
That’s Tucker’s charm. She could sing a heartfelt ode to a commode and folks would believe.
Compelled to hoot and inspired to holler, Tucker’s welcome to the Birthplace of Country Music reverberated through the eager audience.
Tucker gifted Bristol with her lifetime of songs. Bristol gifted her with love requited.