Long before the riot grrrls, a few 1970s kids emerged as cultural symbols of tough girlhood: actresses Jodie Foster and Tatum O’Neal, LA trash rockers the Runaways, and country singer Tanya Tucker. A 13-year-old in a maxidress, Tucker first hit the charts with “Delta Dawn,” and her 1975 Greatest Hits album remains a must for fans of both Tennessee Williams and Buford Pusser–it’s jam-packed with slatterns, shotguns, fermenting magnolias, and 110-degrees-in-the-shade-style violence, all brought to life by a kid with a husky, soulful twang. Since her auspicious debut, Tucker’s had her lows, both professional (the forgettable 1978 album TNT, on which she traded in her pinafores for spandex) and personal (a tabloid-chronicled fling with Glen Campbell, an ill-fated union he’s poignantly described as two hogs fighting at the slop trough). But chalk it up to growing up in public. Tucker’s a survivor, and she’s done it on her own terms. In the last few years, she busted through the tough strictures imposed on women in country by bearing two children out of wedlock. Her natural vocal grit has grown up too, and the title track of her latest album, Soon, is a strong case in point. A lot of lightweight Nashville singers would slide right off that song’s slick sheen, but Tucker stabs into it with blue-steeled soul and lets it bleed. The polished production might not be to every taste, but save a thought for the girl who first took the stage. Twenty years on, this young woman is still holding it. Friday, 8 PM, Star Plaza Theatre, I-65 and U.S. 30, Merrillville, Indiana; 734-7266.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Randee St. Nicholas.