Roger Miller

The Return of Roger Miller

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Allowed to hit with full power on his second album for Smash, Roger Miller presents an album made up completely of his own compositions, quite an achievement in country music circles. The songs reach way beyond the genre into stylistic realms that are difficult to pinpoint, although certain facts are beyond question. They are classic American songs which hold up alongside the best of any generation. They are also songs that appeal to children of all ages, partly due to a whimsical nature that borders on anarchy. His portrait of the "King of the Road" is packed with detail and nuance like a Vincent van Gogh painting, while other songs skip along as if they are about absolutely nothing, tongue firmly in cheek when eventually revealing the message. Like many country releases of this era, this is hardly a bargain in playing time, but Miller gets it all in, balancing the humorous and serious songs, stretching out just a touch on the more swinging numbers and packing something of six verses of gibberish into well less than two minutes of "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd." All praises to Miller the songwriter, but let's not forget the terrific sidemen and arrangements that make each of these recordings so special. It would have been nice if they had credited the guys at the time! One of the most unique things about this material, much of it recorded over a two-day marathon session, is that the sound almost always focuses around the leader's guitar style, which was eccentric to say the least. Scat singing was certainly not the norm in country, let alone combined with instrumental leads in the Slam Stewart tradition. Mainstay instruments of country music, such as fiddle or pedal steel, don't make much of an appearance, instead the sound is built up around doubling of acoustic and electric guitars, with a piano-heavy rhythm section holding everything in place. Small but telling touches make the tracks happen big time, the best example of which would be the finger snapping on "King of the Road," credited over the years to everyone from Miller's sidekick guitarist Thumbs Carlisle to the Lone Ranger.

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