On her 30th album, Tanya Tucker turns in an inspired, tough performance that offers a series of songs reflecting her life's many travels and travails. A musical firebrand on record since she was 14, Tucker has ridden out the scandals, the glories, and the excesses to become one of country music's true jewels. Produced by Gregg Brown to coincide with the issue of her autobiography, Nickel Dreams, Complicated is a cleanly produced record of fine songs and great musical performances from some bona fide studio legends, such as Hargus Robins, Pat Buchanan, Reggie Young, Billy Joe Walker, and the incomparable Fats Kaplin. What matters most, of course, is Tucker's performance, and she is in devastatingly fine voice here. The material ranges from the sublime to the merely adequate, but it's all delivered so passionately it doesn't matter. A true standout is the Dulaney and Jones-penned "Little Things," with its gorgeous guitar fills and Tucker's completely convincing delivery about not needing the finer things in life. The opener, "Ridin' Out the Heartache" by Cathy Majeski, has slide guitars and fiddles cascading around Robins' piano in the opening bars before Tucker enters with an acoustic guitar, delivering an anthem of independence and leaving nowhere for parts unknown to get past the blues. The Allen/Jones ballad "It Hurts Like Love" contains Tucker's finest gritty vocal in a ballad. It seemingly is at odds until she gets to the refrain and it all becomes clear. And then there's her read of Harlan Howard's singing two-step mariachi-infused "I Don't Believe That's How You Feel," which should erase any doubt that Tucker can still sing traditional music with verve, originality, and passion. "Love Thing" is funky backbeat-driven country, with Tucker just behind the beat making it come out like that "feeling inside" with slide guitar underlining every phrase. Of course, it should sound this way -- Delbert McClinton wrote it. Nice and greasy. And then there's the bluesy country-rock of the title track, written by Pat McLaughlin, that is equal parts honky tonk and rockin' blues. In all, this is a dynamite record, full of all the right stuff; with Tucker in full-on gritty voice over all that slick production, it's a study in country contradiction that works in spades.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek