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Reba McEntire and Barbara Mandrell's "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" Duet Was Epic

You aren't going to get a more powerhouse country duo than Reba McEntire and Barbara Mandrell.

By Jessica White

With multiple decades of country hits, The Voice's Reba McEntire exudes country pride in everything she does. The Oklahoma native grew up around rodeos and cowboy boots and has nothing but love for her country beginnings before hitting it big.

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McEntire has become a pillar of the country industry and yet has managed to stay grounded throughout her sprawling career. It helps that The Voice Coach relishes any opportunity to rock a country set.

RELATED: Inside the Moment Reba Gave Lainey Wilson a Grand Ole Opry Invite on The Voice

In honor of The Grand Ole Opry's 70th Anniversary in 1996, McEntire teamed up with fellow country titan Barbara Mandrell to deliver a powerhouse performance of Mandrell's 1981 hit "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," and it was a certified treat.

Check out Reba McEntire and Barbara Mandrell's iconic set, here.

Reba McEntire and Barbara Mandrell's 1996 duet of "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool"

Barbara Mandrell and Reba McEntire backstage at the 40th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

If there's anyone who loves singing with other powerful country artists, it is Reba McEntire — which made her the perfect choice when Mandrell took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium for a live performance of her 80s hit "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool."

"Girl, I am so thrilled to be here at the Ryman with you," Mandrell mused before the set. "I love you so much, and this is the first time. I've always wanted us to do something together; this is the first time."

"It is," McEntire agreed. "And I'm really glad that my first time to get to sing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium is with you."

"This is your... are you kidding?" Mandrell asked.

"Yeah," McEntire confirmed. "I'm not kidding!" Until Mandrell's 1996 performance, McEntire had never performed at the Ryman Auditorium, which had been the home of the Grand Ole Opry until 1974.

"I love that!" Mandrell gushed.

Reba McEntire walks the carpet of the 23rd Annual American Music Awards

"Yeah, with Barbara Mandrell!" McEntire exclaimed gleefully as the band started playing.

Mandrell and McEntire's voices are a match made in heaven, boasting perfect sonic synergy for the country-fried duet. Mandrell and McEntire are western-singing sirens, and they injected soul and delightful banter throughout their stirring performance of "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool."

The song's lyrics — all centered around the singers' unabashed pride in their country roots — served as a fun-filled launching pad for several cute moments together as they reminisced on "puttin' peanuts in my Coke," "wearin' straight-leg Levis," and other bits of nostalgic. 

About halfway through the performance, Mandrell pointed out the balcony seat she sat in during her first-ever visit to the iconic venue. McEntire then revealed that she scored a seat under the balcony during her first visit, earning a chuckle from Mandrell before they launched back into the angelic song.

RELATED: These Pictures of a Young Reba McEntire Prove She's Always Been a Star

McEntire and Mandrell's vocals were firing off on all cylinders throughout the set, and they upped the ante during the final chorus when the pair belted the final note with expert precision. After singing the final lyric, "I was country when country wasn't cool," Mandrell cheekily added, "We were, we are, and we always will be."

"We've come a long way, baby!" McEntire cheered as the pair swapped sweet post-performance pleasantries.

What to Know About "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool"

Barbara Mandrell and Reba McEntire attend the 40th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

Barbara Mandrell released "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" in 1981 as a track on her self-titled live album.

Produced by Tom Collins and co-written by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan, the anthem reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles and spent 13 weeks on the chart.

RELATED: Everything to Know About The Voice Season 26

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