King Of The Road Is Cover Song Gold
Roger Miller is one of the most important songwriters this country has ever seen, penning classics like “King Of The Road”, “Dang Me”, “Chug-a-lug”, and so many other staples. Those songs and more are the focus of a new tribute album, King Of The Road: Tribute To Roger Miller, which is coming out August 31.
Tribute albums are risky business. Not King Of The Road. There are some absolute standout performances, one of which debuted on Torch & Twang last week, from Kacey Musgraves on “Kansas City Star”. Where the original Miller version is marked by its sunshine-y yodelling and upbeat strumming, Musgraves paints the song with some real Midwestern heartbreak. She adds some pedal steel, leaving behind a trail of heartbreak as she pulls out of Omaha.
Other collaborators include an all-star list from the canon of Americana: Brad Paisley, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Allison Krauss, Dwight Yoakam and Loretta Lynn. Each of these artists owe a lot to Roger Miller, and what an honor it must have been to record the songs that arguably got them into music in the first place.
On the plaintive version of “The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me”, Parton teams up with Krauss for a memorable performance of the Miller standout. Hearing this song with female vocals is yet another example of how a cover song should be made. The words are the same, but the meer inclusion of female vocals changes the tone, tenor, and message.
Miller wrote his share of ditties, too, showcasing the late nights and the lost chances, perhaps right from the honky-tonk. The Paisley version of “Dang Me” has a few more modern-Nashville flourishes to it. You could argue that there’s no need to touch a perfect classic. Paisley proves otherwise – if this song gets into the hands of a young fan today, it’s mission accomplished. King Of The Road paves the long and varied road Miller built for young, old, and all.