“High Ridin’ Heroes,” by Tanya Tucker

Daylight or midnight
Red eyes and that old hat
Whiskey-bent and busted flat
She’s a credit to her flaws
She’s a bad risk, but a good friend
Small change and loose ends
She only regrets that she might’ve been
A little faster on the draw

Those old high ridin’ heroes
They’re anywhere the wind blows
She’s been to hell and Texas
And she knows how it feels
To be ridin’ that hot streak
And drunk on some back street
Falling off the wagon
And under the wheels

Time was when she was queen
Now the rodeo’s just this old girl’s dream
The highs are few and far between
The lows get the rest
These old hard times ain’t nothin’ new
Once you’ve done the best you can do
You just tip your hat to the wild and blue
And you ride off to the West

[Chorus]
Those old high ridin’ heroes
They’re anywhere the wind blows
She’s been to hell and Texas
And she knows how it feels
To be ridin’ that hot streak
And drunk on some back street
Falling off the wagon
And under the wheels

Those old high ridin’ heroes
They’re anywhere the wind blows
She’s been to hell and Texas
And she knows how it feels
To be ridin’ that hot streak
And drunk on some back street
Falling off the wagon
And under the wheels

Very, very nice.

This is some real country music. I mean the real thing. If you hate country music at all, there’s no way you will like this song.

The singer is Tanya Tucker. She’s a hardcore country artist. I never got into her music too much, but this song is out of this world. It actually sounds like the Flying Burrito Brothers! Even more than that, it sounds like Texan Country Rock. Think Doug Sahm. Or maybe, if you can imagine it, ZZ Top.

Although this album is very Texan and Tucker has a very country voice, she never lived in Texas. She was born in Arizona and her family then moved to Utah. Later they moved to Nevada. None of the people in those places have country accents last time I checked.

This song was written by country singer David Lynn Jones. It was actually written about a female rodeo rider that he knew, but Tucker reinterpreted it to weave it into her own life, quite nicely too.

Waylon Jennings guested on Jones’ album Hard Times on Easy Street. Waylon’s son, Shooter Jennings, via his wife Jessi Colter, is a Southern Rock singer-songwriter who has produced several excellent albums. He has also produced Marylin Manson and Guns n Roses bassist Duff McCagan. Shooter produced Tanya’s new album.

This song is off of Tucker’s latest album While I’m Livin’. Tucker is one of country music’s famous female outlaws, in part for her hard-partying ways. She inspired other female outlaw types like the Dixie Chicks.

Her first album was Delta Dawn in 1972, released when she was only a teenager. Although the cover by Helen Reddy is better known, Tucker’s version is fantastic. She has always had an awesome gritty southern voice, and her storytelling is legendary. Tucker did well through the 70’s and 80’s, and she is a 10-time Grammy winner. But the country scene started leaving her behind already when she adopted a much more country rock sound in 1978.

For the last few decades her star has faded quite a bit. People wonder who she is. Is she still alive or what?

Shockingly, this could well be the best music of her career. And she’s over 60 and has been singing for 40 years. This is odd as rock musicians tend to peak quite early, in the late teens to 20’s. They make great music for 10 years or so, typically burning out by 35-40 just when novelists hit their peak (Gravity’s Rainbow, Ulysses and Moby Dick were all written between ages 32-40).

In this sense, rock musicians are like classical music prodigies, who also peak young and mathematicians, who of course peak young. Perhaps music and math genius are down to fluid IQ, which is frankly a measure of pure brain speed. Fluid IQ peaks at age 23, which is just coincidentally when we have the maximum number of brain cells.

Not that IQ tests measure intelligence or anything like that. It’s mere coincidence that IQ peaks at the very same time we have the most brain cells!

So a singer-songwriter making her best album at age 60 after a 40 year career is a pretty amazing thing.

She lived quite the hard life when young. As a teenager, she was a chart-topper and award-winner who ended up going broke eight years later and moving back in with her parents. She had a wild one year affair with Glen Campbell of Rhinestone Cowboy fame, a tabloid year full of drinking, cocaine and crazy spats.

During the 80’s, Tanya had a blast. She drank like a fish and sniffed up half of Peru. She bragged that she would out-party any man. By 1988, it was all over and she was checking into the Betty Ford Clinic. That’s probably the only reason she’s still alive.

This song harkens back to the time around when she was checking into the Ford Clinic only two years after her chart-topping Girls Like Me album. She was at the top charts of music and at the bottom of the wells of addiction, both at the same time.

The highest of highs and the lowest of lows, dancing off together, gripped sickly tight in hate and love and life and death, across the stage of the fame as it all crashed down around her to the roars of adoring crowds as she fell down drunk in the aisles.

We’re waiting for you, on the edges of our chairs, ears tilted to the anxious sky.

Come on. Come on back home again.

Welcome back, Tanya.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *