Country GPS

by Christine Wiese

If there were a GPS system rigged up to lead folks straight to the true heart of country music, it would have unerringly led them to Holstein’s Clausen Center last Saturday evening.

Pam Tillis walked on to the stage with sparkles in her clothes and a belt buckle that wouldn’t quit. These accouterments didn’t even come close to rivaling her warmth and quiet good humor. Those attributes shone so brightly that they completely permeated the atmosphere of the theatre. This woman is the real thing. There doesn’t seem to be an ostentatious bone in her body or a hint of pretension in her psyche.

Tillis’s stage presence brought thoughts of the late John Denver to one concert goer. He remarked that they both seem like an old friend who had welcomed him into their home for a night of entertainment. Or as Tillis put it “a night of pickin’ and grinnin'”.

How right she was. Accompanied by Mary Sue Englund (keyboard, guitar, fiddle, and joke teller) and Aria Stiles (fiddle and mandolin), she whomped into “Mi Vida Loca” and got the crowd whooping and hollering. So, too, did the trio’s rendition of Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight”. They sang about strong women who have been done wrong but are still standing. “Let That Pony Run” and “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” were two of those and “Blue Roses” was another. However, the night’s highlight was “I Am a Woman’. The song spoke to men as well as women. “I an strong – I am brave” are words we all should use as our personal mantra. It is, after all, emerging from the struggle that makes us be the best we can be.

Pam Tillis has a basic dignity and innate goodness that comes to the fore whenever she opens her throat to sing. There are good voices and there are great voices but hers is a cut above. One of the reasons for that is her empathy with the joys and sorrows of every day life of every day people. She understands her fellow man and that has made her one of the rarest things in this world – a good companion.

There is a poem which encourages us to live by the side of the road and be a friend to man. This artist’s life has been a bit different. Instead of living by the road, she travels it and offers friendship to those who reside there. How lucky for us she is who she is. We couldn’t have asked for a more congenial way to spend an evening.