After more than two years in the making and just in time for his 76th birthday, country music crooner Ronnie Milsap has finally released his much anticipated album Duets. The album finds Milsap sharing the micorphones with icons such as Dolly Parton, George Strait, Willie Nelson, as well as the late Leon Russell.
One of the more surprising choices is Milsap's duet with CCM's Steven Curtis Chapman. Listen to their duet "You're Nobody" below:
Milsap says it took him a few years to finish the album because of scheduling, but he's amassed an impressive list of partners, from Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Kacey Musgraves and many more.
"The whole trick was trying to find a time that Luke Bryan could come in or George Strait could come in," Milsap said.
Born in North Carolina, Milsap was a wunderkind at musical instrumentation, learning gospel, country and pop music from radio and classical techniques from the State School for the Blind in Raleigh.
Early on in his career, he played piano on Elvis Presley records such as "Kentucky Rain," in which the King of Rock 'n' Roll implored him for "more thunder on the piano, Milsap!"
After moving to Nashville, he bought a Music Row studio from Roy Orbison, renovating it and turning it into a hit factory, starting with his 1979 hit "Nobody Likes Sad Songs" through his major hits like "Stranger in My House." He had the recording console equipped with a Braille label and kept it until 1995.
The studio known as Ronnie's Place is still in use today by record label Black River Entertainment and that was where Milsap returned to record the new album. The six-time Grammy winner said he tried as much as possible to be in the studio with his duet partners when they were recording, rather than recording at separate times.
Little Big Town added their pristine harmonies to his iconic hit "Lost in the Fifties Tonight," while Strait was given the lead on "Houston Solution."
"I gave him the first line, 'I got some friends down in Houston, who know me quite well,'" Milsap said. "I thought George ought to have it. George is from Texas."
He also has two duets with artists who have since died, including Leon Russell and Montgomery Gentry's Troy Gentry. Russell, who died in 2016, recorded "Misery Loves Company," originally a hit for Porter Wagoner and a cover song that Milsap recorded in 1980, and Montgomery Gentry recorded a song called "Shakey Ground" that was originally recorded by the Temptations.