Grand Ole Opry member and American music legend Ronnie Milsap has country in his soul. With 40 No. 1 country hits to his credit, third only to George Strait and Conway Twitty, he has already cemented a place for himself in the cathedral of holy honky tonks. On Country Again, his first new country set in five years, Ronnie shines as he once again shows how it’s done.
First and foremost, Country Again is couuuunnn-try. The overall feel is a blend of Nashville Sound (think strings, delicate supporting harmonies and a nice polish), honky tonk and pop production that stays true to Ronnie’s classic sound of the ’70s and ’80s. Songs like “A Better Word For Love,” an acoustic ballad with strings and a dreamy chorus, showcase Ronnie’s tender voice as he sings, Tonight when I’m out walking, I’ll ask the stars above/ if out there, somewhere, there’s a better word for love. His inflection and ability to squeeze every ounce of expression out of a single note are compelling. “You’re The Reason I’m Living” is a slow-burning love song with layered harmonies. Here, Ronnie lets all the twang hang out singing, A long long time ago, when I was down/ you picked me up and showed me true love still could be found.
Produced by Ronnie and Rob Galbraith, the twang is joyfully strong on Country Again. The repetitive, dirty electric guitar riff of the album’s title track sets the scene for some brilliant honky tonk twists. “Country Again” starts in straightforward, standard 4/4 time as Ronnie speaks the verses, grabbing the listener’s attention with a story about Tommy and his old Dodge truck – that just happens to be a time machine. Well, after a trip to the future, Tommy returns with stories of flying cars, robots and the most amazing revelation of all – good old fashioned traditional country music on the radio. Cue the loud, thundering ¾ time chorus harkening back to the heyday of greats like George Jones, while Ronnie belts out, It was country again, so the future looks bright/ Those folks of tomorrow play their music right.
While Ronnie’s voice sounds excellent throughout the record, his piano playing is also in fine form. On the midtempo “Almost Mine,” the vocal melody and piano work together as Ronnie sings, I want you to want me, with the piano delicately echoing the soft melody. The album’s first single, “If You Don’t Want Me To” (the song that started “The Freeze” dance craze in Louisiana) is an upbeat tune featuring a strong piano arrangement to support Ronnie’s voice.
Country Again is exactly what the title describes. It’s traditional in its sound, songwriting and approach. Faster-paced numbers like the sexy “Fireworks” or the grooving “Oh Linda,” punctuated with a melodic horn section, work to switch up tempos while all the while retaining Ronnie’s classic country style. After a five year wait, it’s a fun ride to hear that good ol’ Ronnie Milsap country on Country Again.
Have you listened to Ronnie’s new album? If so, let us know what you think about it in the comments section below!