In the bad old days of ’90s mainstream country, the soulful voice of Nashville’s Pam Tillis could enhance a great song and improve less distinguished ones, yielding an impressive string of quality singles and albums for Arista. Now free of Music Row control, it should be a given that her debut on her own label would increase her edginess, particularly on an album being portrayed as her return to her “country roots.”
Unfortunately, nearly half the album is anything but that. These listless, bland numbers, inferior to her best work, seem aimed at straight at radio, and I don’t mean Americana. Two of the weakest, the pretentious “Something Burning Out” and “That Was A Heartache”, come from the normally gifted Leslie Satcher. Lisa Brokop’s “Band In The Window” offers yet another tiresome Patsy Cline homage. One wonders what Tillis was thinking when she chose the cliched “Train Without A Whistle” and the overblown power ballad “Someone Somewhere Tonight”, not only the worst sort of Music Row hackwork but inferior to her own formidable songwriting skills.
She comes closer to her proclaimed intentions on Matraca Berg’s “Crazy By Myself” (with an invigorating neo-Dixieland arrangement) and the talking blues “Bettin’ Money On Love”. Two superior Tillis originals, “Life Has Sure Changed Us Around” (a duet with John Anderson) and “The Hard Way”, raise another point. Like her legendary dad, Tillis can write better material for herself than anyone else could offer. Had she relied more on it, this would be a work worthy of total rather than partial celebration.