Dos Divas, the new collaborative effort from Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, has been one of the most anxiously awaited albums of the year, at least as far as the MKOC staff is concerned. Our roster of spotlight artists has been entirely contingent on its release; when a July release date was announced, we finally had the green light to go ahead and shine the spotlight on Pam Tillis.
Albums such as this can be either the product of an inspired pairing or be disappointments that fail to measure up to raised expectations. After listening to Dos Divas for almost a week, my initial impression is that it is a bit of both. The fourteen tracks consist of six duets and four solo efforts from each artist. The album opens with the ballad “I Am A Woman”, followed by the girls-gone-wild anthem and current single “I Know What You Did Last Night”. I didn’t much care for “I Am A Woman” at first, but have grown to appreciate it more after repeated listenings. “I Know What You Did Last Night” is done with tongues firmly in cheek. It is clearly not meant to be taken too seriously, but it gets a little less amusing every time I listen to it. The Tex-Mex flavored title track, which Tillis and Morgan co-wrote with Mark Oliverius, falls completely flat. The production is too heavy-handed and the constantly changing of tempo is distracting.
After listening to the first three tracks, I was getting ready to write the album off, but fortunately things get better, for the most part, after this. The fourth track, a cover of the 1958 Mel Tillis-Webb Pierce-Buck Peddy tune “I’m Tired”, featuring a prominent lap steel guitar track, is hands down the best song on the album. Too bad it clocks in at less than two minutes and is the album’s only number representing traditional country music.
It is at this point that the album begins to alternate between solos between the two ladies, and for the most part, they are substantive and well written songs, beginning with the morning-after regrets expressed in “Last Night’s Make Up” performed by Lorrie. “That’s So Cool”, which Lorrie wrote with Eddy Raven and Frank Meyers, finds her re-connecting with an old high school sweetheart. It’s the most light-hearted of the Morgan solo numbers, but it works quite well.
“Old Enough To Be Your Lover” is the best of the Tillis solos, though it is slightly marred by some over the top jazz scatting. Pam is portraying a cougar, dating a much younger man, and sings the song with such obvious relish that it’s hard not to get caught up in it. The album closes with two more duets, both of which are better than the collaborations from the beginning of the album. “Bless Her Heart” deals with the time-honored tradition of some ladies of delivering sugar-coated poison arrows. The closing track “What Was I Thinking”, another Tillis-Morgan co-write finds the two ladies, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, second-guessing the wisdom of some of the decisions they’ve made in the past.
It’s been six years since we’ve heard any new original music from Pam Tillis; nothing here quite rises to the level of the material she delivered on Rhinestoned. Morgan has been more prolific during this period, with mixed results. Her solo numbers on Dos Divas trump anything that she’s done on her last couple of albums, and one can only hope that her next solo album will be this good. Her voice has not held up as well as Pam’s, but she is in better vocal form here than she has been in quite some time.
Content aside, Dos Divas does disappoint in two important areas: packaging and sound quality. I dislike CDs packaged in cardboard rather than jewel cases. It was the trend towards digipacks several years back which helped push me to start making my music purchases digitally. I was also disappointed in the poor mastering of this album — a consequence, I suppose of the inherent budget constraints of a release funded by the artists and not a major label. The opening track sounds like it was burned onto a CD from a 128kbps mp3. The sound quality issues are less apparent on the other tracks but they are there.
Overall, Dos Divas is a bit of mixed bag; the duets get a bit silly at times, but there are some real high points among the solos. It is by no means a candidate for Album of the Year, but it’s worth checking out.