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Mel and Pam Tillis make good music together

San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, Highland, Cal., April 7, 2005

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Pam Tills kept her opening set short out of respect for her headlining father and because, as she joked, that stuttering dad of hers just takes a little longer. But it wasn't until Pam joined Mel for a few show-closing duets, beginning with the upbeat "Back in the Swing of Things," that this audience got what it truly came to see. Pam noted that this father/daughter duo only teams up for about 12 dates a year, which made this evening's 1-2 artistic punch something special.

Mel Tillis didn't quite keep to his 50 minutes of allotted time, mainly because of his stories and an unwise decision to let his band and singers play a couple of numbers.

But his hits still came off fine, from "Diggin' Up Bones," also a hit for Randy Travis, to "Coca Cola Cowboy." His band, The Statesiders, sounded excellent, even though it was missing a female vocalist from its "Stutterettes" backing group. The man may be 72, but Mel sure looked and sounded much younger than his years tonight.

Pam Tillis obviously enjoyed this evening spent with her father. Although the MC promised that she would be singing some of the material she is currently recording, none of this new stuff actually materialized onstage.

Nevertheless, the older songs, such as the sad "All the Good Ones Are Taken," must have induced a few audience tears. And "Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)" had this mainly older crowd swaying to its Latin rhythms.

It would have been far smoother if daughter and dad had shared the same band throughout the night, just the way they did when they sang together. Instead, there was a long, clumsy silence as Pam's casually dressed musicians exited, and Mel's suit-and-tied ones took their places. The least they could have done was close the curtain until Mel's crew was ready to go.

Obviously, this was not a slick familial package deal. But since the music was so good, it was easy to excuse this night's few rocky moments. Clearly, this evening's music gives credence to the argument that artistic talent is sometimes simply genetic.