Grits and Glamour at Cerritos: Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan
By Glen Creason
Yee-haw! I sure felt good to hear country music in the Performing Arts Center again and when the songs came from such second generation C&W royalty as Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan it made the evening extra-special and extra good. With too many accolades to modestly recount here I will instead just report that the pair briskly piled winners on top of each other at this show, twenty countrified classics all in a row. In between they showed their bloodlines by telling one amusing yarn after another of lives immersed in old-style country and the Grand Old Opry. Grizzled ones in the audience would most certainly remember George Morgan and Mel Tillis as the fathers of these two young ladies who have decades of experience dating back to when they were kids in Nashville. They also have a bunch of hit songs on their own and they alternated in singing them just as good as ever in front of a healthy crowd of Cerritos fanaticos.
Both ladies have voice enough to reach the back rows, indeed maybe bounce strong soprano notes off the San Gabriel Mountains in some cases. The show stayed mostly in the country genre but veered off a couple of times very successfully. The show opening “Clouds” by the decidedly non-C&W Joni Mitchell was appropriate with two women with their rich experience but then the fiddles and guitars got to work. Lorrie Morgan looked darn good and sang up a storm on “ Watch Me,” “Except for Mondays” then threw in a pair of beauties from her newest CD “California Quake” and “Mirror Mirror” that had some gray heads nodding in the audience. The light-hearted and sweet voiced Ms. Tillis gave us a taste of “the Sugar Tree,” torched up the bittersweet “Train Without a Whistle,” and vamped through the funny “Queen of Denial.” There was a tribute to their famous daddies in “Candy Kisses” from the George Morgan songbook and “Burning Memories” that rang Tillis true after all these years.
Everything the firm of Tillis-Morgan attempted was lifted up by a very fine band, especially the superb guitarist Roger Eaton, a genuine national fiddle champion Megan B. Lynch, keyboardist and musical director Mark Ontiverius and the multi-faceted singer-songwriter-instrumentalist Mary Sue Englund who added eye-candy and vocal backup worthy of her own night under the Cerritos footlights. The fans demanded radio hits and got “Mi Vida Loca,” “What Part of No,” “Spilled Perfume,” “Don’t Tell Me What to Do,” and “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” that were pure country. There was a powerhouse reading of Lorrie Morgan’s “Something in Red” that garnered a standing ovation and Pam Tillis broke a few hearts with a beautiful “Maybe It Was Memphis.” Still, it was a collaborative effort and when the two ladies tackled “Operator” with it’s gospel tones they really took the show to a higher level. The surprising encore of the Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was a perfect finale to a night of Southern California country.