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