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Her instantly recognizable voice owns the time-honored heartbroken lyrics.

Music Review: Pam Tillis – Rhinestoned

Following up her recent It's All Relative, a tribute to her father and country legend Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis stays true to the generation before her with her new album Rhinestoned, releasing April 17.

Steeped in that rich tradition is "Something Burning Out." Her instantly recognizable voice owns the time-honored heartbroken lyrics of the genre and delivers them with an emotive style missing in much of the now popular crossbreed of pop and country. As with much of the album, it isn't only Tillis' style and voice that is pure and true to those roots, but it is also the accompaniment, rich with fiddles, harpsichord, acoustic guitars, and bass.

"Band in the Window," the current single, switches things up with a two-step tempo and a witty spin to the lyrics. It shows a side to Pam that may remind the listener of earlier singles "Cleopatra, Queen of Denial" and "Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)" minus the pop slant she leaned toward for a very short time. In a recent interview Pam talked abut her slight detour toward cross-over music and how she quickly found her way back to her roots. When asked about those early songs, she says, "It started to go that way, yes. My first album for Arista wasn't that way at all. Actually, my first three albums weren't like that but then it started to change. You know, I'm proud of all my records, but I just didn't feel like that was where I wanted to be."

On Rhinestoned she finds a way to still visit the lighthearted songs without compromising the end sound. "Crazy by Myself" is yet a different spin on tradition and shows a fun and playful side to Tillis. In a similar vein is "Bettin' Money on Love," an ode to mixing love and gambling.

As amusing as these songs are, Tillis shines the strongest on heartfelt ballads. A prime example is "The Hard Way," a song she co-wrote with her brother, who she referred to as her songwriting twin in the above mentioned interview. On the gem tracks like this one her voice is a finely tuned instrument hitting more than the notes but also a soft spot in the listener's heart where the same emotions live.

For fans of pure country or heartfelt songs of love, loss, and life, Rhinestoned will be a welcome addition to your collection. The album is being released on Pam Tillis' own label, Stellar Cat Records, a new venture but one she says gave her full control. When you listen to Rhinestoned you will clearly hear the love and attention to detail she put in every track.

With the album comes a new tour, which has already begun. Dates are available at her official website as are videos to three songs and lots of news and information. Streaming MP3s of four songs can be heard at her Myspace Profile page.

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