Teeny Tucker – Put On Your Red Dress Baby
The title of this release is a familiar lyric to blues fans, taken from the big hit record by Tommy Tucker (Robert Higginbotham) , who was also the father of acclaimed singer Teeny Tucker. Her cover of that classic, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame last year, is a centerpiece on her new release. Guitarist Robert Hughes plays a short intro, then Tucker utilizes her striking voice to bring new life to the song, with Linda Dachtyl on Hammond B-3 organ, Robert Blackburn on bass and Ryan Parkevich on drums setting up a propulsive foundation.
Other covers on the disc include Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “One Kind Favor,” given a restrained treatment with some gentle, melodic guitar from Hughes as Tucker doubles on backing vocals, and two versions of “I’d Rather Go Blind,” the oft-covered Etta James signature piece. The first is eight minutes in length, giving Tucker plenty of time to deliver a heartrending performance that makes listeners feel the anguish and heartache, without succumbing to overwrought vocal techniques. The shorter version fades out before the five minute mark, making it more radio-friendly as it drops Tucker’s spoken testimonial and some final, moving cries for her man. Both have Mary Ashley, Paula Brown, and Blackburn on backing vocals. “I Sing The Blues” has a tougher sound, with biting guitar from Hughes while the singer’s voice adopts a gritty tone.
The remaining eight songs were penned by Tucker and Hughes. As Tucker explains in the notes for each track, she has experienced plenty of turmoil and loss of love in recent years that form the emotional core of each song, attempting to move past the trials & tribulations to regain a spot in the light of grace. The opener, “Church House Prayer,” addresses the need to find a way to inner piece while the troubled world swirls around us. “Love Don’t Hurt” is a fiery declaration of what the singer wants, and if if her man can’t measure up, she is prepared to break free. The next tune, “Learn How To Love Me,” is the perfect follow-up, with Tucker offering encouragement on ways to rekindle a fading relationship.
Hughes pays tribute to his main inspirations on guitar on “From The Skies,” a reflective piece honoring B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, especially in the closing segment. The taut guitar licks and driving rhythm on “Don’t Look Back (In The Rear View Mirror)” recall the Tiny Bradshaw standard, “Train Kept A Rollin,’” with Dachtyl accompanying on piano. Tucker uses “Crack The Door” to comment on the pain of dealing with the dying embers of love. All of the emotional torment is vividly expressed on “Heart, Mind, And Soul,” as Tucker’s pushes her voice to the point of breaking in hopes of finding an answer.“Jump Back” is strong musically, with Cary Dachtyl on maracas enhancing the arrangement, but the lyrics fall short of standard on the other originals.
Throughout this release, Teeny Tucker displays her consummate control of a voice that can go from a whisper to a searing cry without missing a beat. Forgetting needless vocal gymnastics, she consistently locks in on the heart of the song, doing just enough to create the appropriate response in the listener’s mind. And she openly shares the sadness, despair and joy of her life in every performance, guaranteeing that this one will get repeated listens!