It was a master class in class Wednesday afternoon (July 10) at BMI’s Nashville headquarters as two of country music’s finest vocal stylists — Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis — unveiled music from their forthcoming album, Dos Divas.
Each woman was buoyed into their present collaboration on a string of individual hits during the 1990s — Morgan with such favorites as “Five Minutes,” “What Part of No,” “Something in Red” and “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” and Tillis with “Maybe It Was Memphis,” “Mi Vida Loca,” “Shake the Sugar Tree” and “In Between Dances.”
Both are members of the Grand Ole Opry and both daughters of Country Music Hall of Fame members. Tillis was also the Country Music Association’s female vocalist of the year in 1994.
Dos Divas, as they amply demonstrated, is a smooth continuation of the strong woman stances they’ve taken throughout their careers.
Backed by a small band, the two sat side by side in chairs facing a crowd that filled the smaller of BMI’s two reception areas. They chatted companionably and bantered with the audience between songs.
Morgan and Tillis have been singing together on the Grits & Glamour tour since 2010.
They kicked off their album sampler with “I Know What You Did Last Night,” which Morgan characterized as “a little bit Thelma, a little bit Louise.”
Written by Karyn Rochelle and Al Anderson, the song has the two tossing sharp but generally good natured jibes at each other about their nocturnal drinking and romantic proclivities.
Explaining the basically down-home nature of their show, Tillis explained, “We’re like everybody else — except we get sparkly microphones.”
In a more sedate mood, Morgan sang the pensive “Another Chance To,” written by Joe West, Tom Shapiro and Tammi Kidd, a rumination on the fragility and preciousness of life.
“I send this out to my husband [Randy White],” she said, “because it made me think of him when I recorded it.”
Next came the deliciously gossipy “What Was I Thinkin’,” which Morgan and Tillis co-wrote. It was inspired, Morgan said, by looking at their old publicity photos fans bring them to sign.
In it, they catalog a variety of bad sartorial and romantic choices they can now look back on with humorous detachment.
In one line, Morgan sings, “I married Sammy — I almost married him twice,” a reference to her stormy union with fellow singer Sammy Kershaw, the fifth of her six husbands.
The song’s refrain is, “I get the sinkin’ feelin’ I wasn’t thinkin’ at all.”
Morgan recalled discovering an online video clip in which her father, George Morgan, is hosting a show in which he duets with Tillis’ father, Mel Tillis. The song they sang together was one the elder Tillis co-wrote called “I’m Tired.”
Morgan showed the clip to her singing partner, and that led them to recording the same song for Dos Divas. They then performed it for the BMI crowd.
Tillis took the lead in Tommy Lee James and Danielle Peck’s tender and worshipful “Even the Stars.”
“This is truly our favorite song on the album,” Tillis said as they introduced their final selection, “I Am a Woman.”
“It’s everything we are as women,” Morgan added.
Co-written by Mary Sue Englund and Thom Shepherd, “I Am a Woman” has the intensity and gravity of a political manifesto and will soon be published, they said, as the text of a “coffee table book” of great women.
“It’s important to remind young women that [they’re] so much more than the wrapping,” Morgan asserted as they closed out the show.
One onlooker witnessing Morgan’s impassioned performance whispered, “That’s as close as country gets to Judy Garland.”
Dos Divas includes 14 songs and will be released July 23.