Country Again by Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap, who’s spent the bulk of his multiplatinum-selling career as a purveyor of pop- and R&B-styled Nashville fare, is not often lumped in with country’s traditionalists. It’s interesting, then, that he dips so deeply into the old-school pool on Country Again, a curiously titled collection that both exceeds and confounds expectations.

The title track is a lightweight, wishful novelty about a souped-up hickmobile that travels into the future—where traditional country music once again rules the radio. Indeed, Ronnie careens through the album as though in a freewheeling time machine, offering a somewhat scattered but impressively performed set of songs that find him lost not only in the ’50s but the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s as well. Classic-sounding newer songs collide with vintage country chestnuts, eventually rendering matters of era unimportant.

Despite the occasionally awkward attempt at a contemporary-sounding track—impaired in part by lower production values than he enjoyed in his prime—Ronnie both embraces and unlaces the past, declaring in the process that he’s still present and accounted for.

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