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The time is right for Pam Tillis

By Jon Weisberger, September 2002

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In addition to "Burning Memories," the Austin sessions produced three of the album's more faithful-to-the-original cuts - "So Wrong" (Patsy Cline), "I Ain't Never" (Webb Pierce) and "Honey (Open That Door)" (Ricky Skaggs). On the last, Benson is joined on background vocals by Trisha Yearwood and bluegrasser Rhonda Vincent.

"One of the things I enjoyed most was bringing guests in on certain things," Tillis says.

"Marty Stuart played mandolin on 'Violet And The Rose' and 'Detroit City,' Delbert McClinton played harp on 'Goodbye, Wheeling,' I had The Jordanaires in to sing on 'So Wrong,' and then Dolly Parton sang with me on 'Violet And The Rose' and Emmylou Harris sang on 'Heart Over Mind.'"

"Another thing I tried to do was to step out of that Nashville session world a little bit. There are some of the main session guys on the album, but I also got some different players, like Duke Spicher on bass, Bryan Sutton on acoustic guitar and John Jorgenson on electric. The great Dan Dugmore played some steel, and so did Robby Turner, and I had Joe Manuel, who plays for George Jones, and Pat Buchanan, who's done a lot of work with Jim Lauderdale, come in and do some guitar parts, too. So, I've got some great pickers on this record. And Buddy Spicher did the fiddle arrangements for me."

Though most of the songs on "It's All Relative" will be well-known to historically-minded country fans - the set list includes "Emotions" (Brenda Lee), "Mental Revenge" (Waylon Jennings) and "Goodbye Wheeling" (Mel Tillis himself) - a couple of less familiar cuts get their due, too.

"Daddy sent me 20 or so CDs packed with songs," Tillis laughs, "and I had a feeling I might stumble across something nobody had heard - in fact, I was hoping to - and I did. 'Not Like It Was With You' had been recorded, but never released. I ran across it and thought, holy moly, I've never heard this, and I love it. He originally wrote it for Frank Sinatra, I think, but the demo sounded very Everly Brothers-like to me, and so that's the direction we went in, with the Everlys' big acoustic sound."

The disc concludes with another rarity, "Come On And Sing."

"That one's been recorded," she says, "but it's just not very well-known. Daddy said the last time he'd heard it was when the Gaithers sang it on one of their shows, but they never recorded it. One reason for doing that one was that everyone was asking me if I was going to do a duet with my dad, and there was really nothing in the catalog that was suitable for a father-daughter duet. I wanted Dad on the record - he's still around, this is not a posthumous tribute - so when when I heard that song, I thought well, this would be a good moment, and so I brought in my whole family to sing on it."

Adding an even more organic feeling to the album, much of the work on the project was done at Tillis' home studio. "We cut the main tracks in a big studio, but we did all the vocals here and all of the overdubs. One of the nice things that happened with this album is that I got that up and running. It's a great tool because there's a freedom with being able to roll out of bed into the studio, or to stay up all night and work without worrying about the clock, and I just love that."

"I think that adds a personal aspect to the album - but it cut both ways, too. Near the end of it, there was one period where I literally did not leave the house for two weeks. By the time it was finished, all I could think was, I've got to get out of here!"

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