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Pam Tillis - Rhinestoned 
Review By: George Peden, CSO Staff Journalist

Good things are worth waiting for, and Pam Tillis’ latest album, Rhinestoned, is no exception. Five years on from It’s All Relative, her musical homage to legendary dad, Mel Tillis, the acclaimed diva is back with a wholesome collection of tunes that inspire, captivate and reward. It’s all done with music best described as intimate and earthy.

As a recognizable singer and songwriter, Tillis first stepped on to the Grand Ole Opry at 8; she has used that confidence to go on to claim widespread industry nods and applause. Along the way she’s snared 6 #1 singles, 14 top 10 hits and had stratospheric sales; also along the journey, she’s grabbed an enhancing CMA Female Vocalist of the Year (1994) award. Coupled to a career of industry nominations, including two Grammy awards, Pam Tillis is solid and reliable. Rhinestoned confirms it. 

Out on her own label, Stellar Cat Records, Tillis also shows her finesse on these tunes by sharing production knob twiddling with Gary Nicholson and Matt Spicher. The result is sure to impress keen fans waiting on the April 17 release.

“What I’m doing is country,” reveals Tillis in her album promo sheet. “But not necessary the kind you hear on the airwaves these days. Now I admire a lot of this music; after all, I’ve sung rock, pop, R&B and jazz, so I’m hardly a purist. But what I’m hearing now sounds often more pop than country to me. And I just seriously felt called by that old different drummer to something a bit more like the country I remember from my formative years; the country music of my youth.’

If you fit the demographic, one of a fan yearning to hear country as it should sound, do like I did and hit the highway with a long trail of black before you and just this album for company. You’ll be won over – and quickly. I must have played this album to near groove damage, as the car laser stayed locked on from “Something Burning Out” until the last note played on track 11, “Over My Head”. By the second play through, I was hooked.

The mood from “Something Burning Out”, a tale of diminished returns with a relationship, sets up the album. Tillis is a singer’s singer. She doesn’t whine, rather her offering is vintage – wholesome, mellow and full-bodied; she wrings the emotion out and leaves you almost tempted to “repeat”…but then there are other equally involving tracks ahead.

“Band In The Window”, lively and image rich, paints the atmosphere (for those of us unlucky to have never visited) of Nashville with its showcase wannabees performing in the bar windows for passing crowds. The toe-tapper sits well with the only duet on the album, “Life Has Sure Changed Us Around”. With the distinctive vocals of John Anderson sharing microphone duty, the musical mates sing out about changing fortunes. Anderson, laconic, timbered and classic was a perfect choice for a perfect song.

But while Tillis (and Anderson) bring a musical take that wins the listener, it all begins, as Tills as a writer herself would know, with the song. On Rhinestoned the tunes are the sand and water to Tillis’ vocal concrete. Davis Raines, Jon Randall, Lisa Brokop, Leslie Satcher, Gary Nicholson, Matraca Berg and Bruce Robison are some who offer crafted and inspired emotion across the album. 

Cuts like “Train Without A Whistle”, the Walt Wilkins/Davis Raines heart tug “Someone Somewhere Tonight” and the spiritual “Over My Head” are the needed proof Tillis’ song choices are here because of her intended desire to make a solid country album. She has. 

Standout cut for me, amongst so many here, is “That Was A Heartache”. Listen. Listen intently. You’ll hear Tillis paint the image of shattered love, fractured and pained, all in a fiddle sad song many of us can relate to. When she sings of a cowboy’s ache for a lost and left love, a flame who hit the leaving trail 15 years ago, and he STILL pines, now THAT was a heartache.

Five years between albums is too long. With this album Pam Tillis proves, convincingly, good things are worth waiting for.

Click on the CD cover 
to order yours!

1. Something Burning Out
2. Band in the Window 
3. Train Without a Whistle 
4. Life has Changed us Around (featuring Jon Anderson) 
5. Someone, Somewhere Tonight
6. Down by the Water 
7. Crazy by Myself 
8. Bettin' Money on Love 
9. That was a Heartache 
10. The Hard Way 
11. Over My Head 

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