I love music. I love quality music; not fluff, not ear candy. Sadly, many music snobs who pride themselves on their musical taste fall into the trap of not liking most music which actually sells, and that's sad. There are a few vocalists who truly deserve to be described as "artists", whose music leans toward the commercial side, not by choice, but because that's who they are.
One such singer, who gets very little positive critical press, is Ronnie Milsap. Poll any group of pop or country music critics, and he doesn't make the top 20 for most of them. And that's sad, because he's actually quite incredible. I have spent some time this week reaching back into more obscure parts of my music collection, and have been reminded of how powerful this man's talent is.
I found his soul-era (before he became a country singer) rendition of "House of the Rising Sun" and am convinced it's as good as any version out there. I offer this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-MXj9o_RpI (start around the mid-point). I offer this as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbFLHtGAkWE
I could offer more examples, but this isn't aimed at selling anyone on Ronnie's importance. That's not the point. And I acknowledge he has, like many artists, had moments of selling out which have resulted in some embarrassing stuff (there's a 1984 duet called "Night by Night" which is beyond bad). But his talent cannot be denied.
It's amazing that the likes of Vince Gill, Roy Clark, and Mel Tillis have been inducted in the Country Music Hall of fame, but Ronnie Milsap has not. Maybe it's not that amazing. Maybe it's just more evidence of how underappreciated this man is. No matter. There are a few of us who know.
If you want to hear a criminally underrated singer perform a criminally unknown song, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNo5CHlecYc and close your eyes and listen as he tells the story. Listen to the whole thing, and you'll wonder, like I do: where's the love for Ronnie Milsap?