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Loretta Lynn Celebrates Roger Miller With The Weary Grace Of 'Half A Mind'

Loretta Lynn appears on <strong></strong><em>King of the Road: A Tribute.</em>
Courtesy of the artist
Loretta Lynn appears on King of the Road: A Tribute.

Roger Miller wrote and performed some of country music's most enduring hits — most notably "Dang Me" and the eternal "King of the Road" — and dabbled in everything from Hollywood acting to writing a Tony-winning score. More than 25 years after his death, he remains a sizable influence on country's major stars, as a forthcoming tribute album makes clear.

Out Aug. 31, King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller makes room for Miller interpretations by contemporary artists like Brad Paisley (who tackles "Dang Me"), Eric Church and Kacey Musgraves. But many of its most notable covers feature Miller's friends, collaborators and contemporaries, from Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton to Ringo Starr to the great Loretta Lynn, who takes on the ambivalent lament "Half a Mind."

Miller had a tremendous gift for plainspoken wordplay, and "Half a Mind" gets right to the heart of a relationship that needs to end but can't get left behind easily. Lynn, of course, knows just how to tap into the song's central tension — "I've got half a mind to leave you, but only half the heart to go" — singing with gracefully weary resignation over an arrangement straight out of an antique jukebox.

King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller comes out August 31 viaBMG.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)