Pam Tillis, “The Hard Way”

This is Pam’s first single in eleven years that she’s had a hand in writing, and it’s easily the most personal song she’s ever released.    She had referred on record before to the car crash in her teens that nearly claimed her life, but never so openly and directly as she does here.  She weaves through the mistakes she’s made along the way in life and love, nothing that “I’ve never liked the sound of sound advice, and when I should’ve thought it over, well I never did think twice.”

Along the way, she’s taking full responsibility and never sounds like a victim of her own decisions.  There’s a beautiful thread of optimism woven into the lyric, though the wisdom of many mistakes in the past make her reluctant to believe that the new love of her life is for real, since “each time I’ve believed before, that’s right where it all went wrong.” There are so many emotional layers to her reading of the next line – “You swear you love me, and oh God, I think you mean it” –  that it reveals something new each time you hear it again.

My championing of Tillis’ new album Rhinestoned entered evangelization territory months ago, but I’m happy to say it again: this record proves that country music at its best is a form of art, not just a radio format.

Grade: A+

Listen: The Hard Way

Buy: The Hard Way

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