The all-star celebration of the enduring legacy of Country Music Hall of Fame legend Roger Miller continues with a preview of two more outstanding cuts from the upcoming double-LP, King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller. Encompassing two divergent styles of Miller’s songwriting styles, “Dang Me” and ‘The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me” represent, respectively, Miller’s first novelty hit – a Number One country and Top Ten pop tune – and one of the earliest examples of his gift for crafting mournful country ballads. On the former, Brad Paisley shines with humor and light, while the latter is rendered by two of the world’s most angelic voices, Dolly Parton and Alison Krauss.
Miller’s “The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me” echoes not only the cleverness of a Hank Williams tune, but also the dire melancholy that has long been a staple of classic country music. Dolly Parton takes the lead vocal and Alison Krauss provides harmony for a sublimely ethereal heartbreaker of a tune that was previously a Number Two hit for Eddy Arnold in 1966 and recorded a decade later by NFL star Terry Bradshaw. Although unquestionably poignant, especially as sung by Parton and Krauss, the cleverness of the song’s title is vintage Miller. As a personal coda, Parton adds a special message to the track, invoking one her best-loved songs by saying, in a reverently hushed tone, “And, Roger, we will always love you.”
Paisley, who established a similar pattern to Miller with early hits that included the heart-touching “He Didn’t Have to Be” and the comical “Me Neither,” offers an animated take on the self-deprecating “Dang Me,” with lyrics that pay homage to the wordplay of poet Ogden Nash, namely rhyming “purple” with “maple syr-ple,” and vocal interjections matching the jazzy guitar phrases accompanying the tune.
“Dang Me” was a multiple Grammy winner and huge crossover hit, and owes part of its success to producer Jerry Kennedy’s three young sons, who, when they heard it playing on a reel-to-reel tape Kennedy took home with him, began dancing wildly around the room, begging to hear it again. Miller, who was frustrated by his lack of success as a recording artist at the time, was planning to move from Nashville to Los Angeles and even gave his debut album the tongue-in-cheek title, Roger & Out.
King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller, which also features Ringo Starr, Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church, Loretta Lynn, Jamey Johnson and Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, the Stellas, Asleep at the Wheel with Huey Lewis, and many others, will be released August 31st.