Roger Miller

A Man Like Me: The Early Years of Roger Miller

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Bear Family's previous Roger Miller collection gathered his recordings for RCA, which is where he had his first hits. This 2006 follow-up "A Man Like Me" goes back even earlier, collecting his sides from the late '50s and early '60s -- the music he made before he was famous, before he was Roger Miller. In fact, it actually captures Roger Miller trying to be other people in several places, where he's cutting soundalike versions of "Hot Rod Lincoln" and George Jones' "Who Shot Sam." These are some of the latest recordings here, dating from 1960 when he returned to Starday after a brief stint at Decca in 1959, and "A Man Like Me" has it all -- the 1957 Starday singles, the Decca, the return to Starday. These are, to be sure, formative recordings but they're all the more interesting, even exciting, for it. Miller's signature work is so unique that it often feels like he arrived fully formed, particularly since this early work has not been in wide circulation, but "A Man Like Me" shows the roots of his sound, whether in it's the pure hard honky tonk of "A Man Like Me" or the galloping, funny "Poor Little John" (surely the antecedent of such sly novelties as "Dang Me") or even the soundalike records which showcase his often overlooked vocal talents as he easily slides into Webb Pierce and George Jones mimicry. Some of these cover versions are no more than good generic country -- they weren't designed as re-interpretations, after all, they follow the original hit singles by Faron Young ("Country Girl"), Buck Owens ("Under Your Spell Again"), Charlie Ryan ("Hot Rod Lincoln"), Bill Anderson ("The Tip of My Fingers") and Ray Price ("I Wish I Could Fall in Love Today") fairly closely without being imitations -- which means that the second half of this comp isn't quite as compelling as the first eight tracks, which are all Miller originals, ranging from the very good to the excellent. In the latter category are the previously mentioned "A Man Like Me" and "Poor Little John," along with the lightly rocking "Can't Stop Loving You," the rollicking and funny "Jason Fleming" and the nimble honky tonk of "You're Forgetting Me," written in the style of a lighter George Jones number. But even when "A Man Like Me" veers toward the generic it is never less than enjoyable and it's all historically important, a necessary addition to Roger Miller's catalog and of interest to any serious classic country fan.

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