“I know for certain, that certainty comes at a cost.” Rosie Tucker shrugs off lines that most other songwriters elevate with pretense. She represents her view with conversational ease. She’s almost dismissive of her smarts. But wait. Along with the ability to gently put light onto subjects the artist also leans herself into volume, range, and rage. Every turn of her new album, Never Not Never Not Never Not, offers up a new nugget of insight, personal manifesto, or connection.
The breezy tone that populates this collection does not mean that things are brightly optimistic, or without consequence. The opposite is true. Tucker has issues. She stands well with those that need a champion, and she condemns the causes that lead opposition to compassion. She’s smart like that. Individuals are not divorced from their environment. As much as we’re all products of time and place Tucker moves through a compelling landscape of light and shade.
One of the distinguishing elements of this album is that the focus is often on the frame of a subject. At least, a lot of the focus is on the framing that people adopt and climb through when handling the world. Specifically, there are discussions on the limits and freedoms, pressures and torments of gender identity.
Is the tagging of something as important as the thing that is being tagged? Tucker directs compassion toward the soul within the flesh. She has nothing but concern for the wellness of all things. In the reduction of a need for tags she elevates the central concerns. And yet, she honors the requests of others and the spectrum of naming conventions. In doing this she offers safety. Love.
Opening track ‘Gay Bar’ is the document of Tucker’s night in a cowboy gay bar. But it’s not just about that, is it? This is an album that can adopt shapes to meet the size of its container. If you want a simple sing-along, Tucker presents a ’90’s tinged approach to guitar rock. This shit is jovial, makeshift, and easy to introduce to your friends. It comes dressed in sloppy clothes on laundry day, and it celebrates its own humanity. But also there’s something here, beneath the friendly appraisal of things, that signify spiritual depth behind the humor.
For all of the compassion that appears to line the heart of Never Not Never Not Never Not Rosie Tucker doesn’t veil her frustrations. In ‘Habit’ we cascade through the aspects of an individual, and the dimensions of a relationship that may be described as ‘routine’. The habit being discussed here is not the unchallenged hooking-up with people that do us harm. The behavior that requires an intervention is the author’s inability to speak out in the face of bullying, toxic behaviors. There’s reassurance though, that we’re addressing the poor choices. The vocal work on this track is amongst the most emotionally raw on the album. Tucker’s voice sounds close to breaking – she allows emotion to lend momentum that restraint usually tempers. This is not a rant, but it makes art from frustration.
With Never Not Never Not Never Not Rosie Tucker puts more force into the bite that we’d first heard on Lowlight, her 2015 mainly acoustic album. There’s an urgency to the issues at hand. We’re all feeling a little tormented at the moment. Tucker articulates the climate; tracks feel like barometric instruments. In 2015 there was hope, potential, and romance. There was sadness back then – but Tucker was a person who would get a better view of the sky when the roof fell in. She owned and converted vulnerability into charm. (What do you mean, you’ve not heard ‘Fix’er Upper’)
These days, there is hope, potential, and romance – but there’s also no fucking about. We’re no longer kidding ourselves that unacceptable things are acceptable. Weaknesses are addressed head on. Vulnerability has now been converted into strength, and that’s even more seductive than the stuff of four years ago.
PHOTOGRAPH BY SHABNAM FERDOWSI