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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Crowd gets lost in Ronnie Milsap

Harrah's Rincon Casino and Resort, Valley Center, Cal., April 3, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

VALLEY CENTER, CA - When Ronnie Milsap and his band laid down their instruments for a three-song a cappella interlude, it was abundantly clear how much this piano playing country star enjoys singing. As his band mates snapped fingers and harmonized along with him during The Del-Viking's lovely "Come And Go With Me," Milsap surrendered to the moment and was - to quote one of his 40 number 1 hits - lost in the Fifties tonight.

He opened with "Don't You Know How Much I Love You," and then proceeded to play many of his multiple hits - some of which were linked by a medley.

In between songs, the blind performer good naturedly kidded with his band ("I only trust them as far as I can see them") and took this show at nice and easy pace. This Indian casino may be owned by the corporate giant Harrah's, but this Valley Center venue certainly isn't one of the big rooms of Vegas. Nevertheless, Milsap gave every indication of enjoying himself on stage and not really giving a hoot about the size of this event.

As a keyboardist, Milsap doesn't exactly project the typical country artist image. But because he knows a good song when he hears one, such as "Smoky Mountain Rain," he's nonetheless added to country music's legacy of great story songs many times over. Other lyrical highlights included Don Gibson's "(I'd Be) A Legend In My Own Time," and Bacharach/Hilliard's "Any Day Now."

But all of this would mean nothing without a voice to sell the songs. And Milsap was in fine form tonight. He may not ever belt songs out, but there's a tangible warmth and purity to Milsap's voice that is impossible not to appreciate. An added benefit is Milsap's piano playing (both acoustic and electric) that sprinkles additional color to everything he touches.

In today's radio climate, it doesn't appear as if Milsap has much of a chance to add hits to his career total. But with so many gems already in his repertoire, none of that really mattered to a crowd that was willingly lost in the Milsap tonight.