Career musicians are at risk of growing jaded, of becoming immune to the charm of the sounds that once inspired them to a life of song. But Ronnie Milsap, who turned 71 last week and who has been making records for 51 years, is equal parts adoring fan and adored recording artist.
...His forthcoming album, Summer Number Seventeen, finds him revisiting some of the songs that thrilled him as a younger man, as he reworks "It's All in the Game," "Tears on My Pillow," "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)" and others. The title track is a new song that recalls youth's raw wonder.
The album is far from traditional country - Milsap has long thrived by ignoring genre distinctions, and he jokes that the old-school pop ballads of Summer Number Seventeen put him in direct competition with crooner Michael Buble — but certainly no farther than much of today's contemporary country radio fare.
...In the meantime, Milsap plays shows at the Grand Ole Opry and on the road, and he spends time at home with his wife, Joyce (he calls her "Joycie"), with whom he'll celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary next year. And he listens to music, old and new.
One recent living-room afternoon, he talked about the sound of Ray Charles' voice, and about how moving it is for him to hear Larry Cordle sing one about a life in music, "Black Diamond Strings." Cordle sings about learning to play, about formative influences and about the unmitigated joy of expression.
"I do feel for the music," he says. "I always have."
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Photo credit: Steven S. Harman/The Tennessean