Let's face it: there is only one Pam Tillis. Her voice, one of the purest country instruments to come out of Nash Vegas in the last 30 years, draws on the music's rich and varied tradition, and points forward to the place where country, bluegrass, rock, pop, swing and soul meet. She may not be recording for the major labels anymore, but, as evidenced by Rhinestoned, she's making better music now than she's ever made in her life. The 11 cuts here, penned by some of Nashville's finest songwriters, are delivered with the kind of savvy and artistry that only a veteran can muster. Tillis delivers "Something Burning Out" with all the ache and confusion of a woman who cannot understand why love itself is not enough. She's not a victim, but an active participant. "Band in the Window," is a honky tonk story song with killer pedal steel by Dan Dugmore. She delivers Jon Randall's "Train Without a Whistle" with all the requisite warning and loneliness about a rounder that a country ballad can bear. And speaking of ballads, her rendering of Jim McBride's "Someone Somewhere Tonight," is full of pure, smoldering and desperate desire. Her soul voice comes pouring out like warm honey from the pit of her belly and out toward the listener like a balm. The banjo strut in "Down by the Water" is one of those two-steppers that makes the boots bound across the barroom floor. That it is also a tune of thwarted desire is poignant in and of itself. The point is, no matter what the tune here, it succeeds. Rhinestoned is a hard country record, coming from one of the music's most signature vocalists who extends that tradition even as she honors it.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
feat: John Anderson