To the virtually unanimous chorus of acclaim this disc has already garnered, let me add my own emphatic contribution . . . this is one superlative collection of southern soul!
Southern soul, of course, can mean a variety of things; in this case, a variety of things is exactly right, as Mr. Parnell, 'til now better known in country circles, returns to his roots to explore a diverse range of sounds and influences.
Hence there's a bit of everything here, from the rootsy opener "Right Where It Hurts" with its sinewy, Santana-influenced lead to the Allman-inspired "Crossing Over," with Lee Roy showing himself anyone's match on slide. "Little By Little" couldn't be anything but a Dann Penn song; taken here as a duet with Bonnie Bramlett, it's a lesson in dignity in the face of heartbreak. Ol' buddy Delbert McClinton, whom one might guess is something of a soul mate to Mr. Parnell, duets on "South By Southwest," a classic slice of 'Texarcana' and a rollicking tribute to the Lone Star way of life. "Tell The Truth," ventures into a Bozz Scaggs-like blue-eyed soul territory; Keb' Mo's participation on the all-acoustic "I Declare" gives it a folksy, back-porch feel with gospel overtones. With that as intro, we head straight to church for "Brand New Feeling," complete with angelic support from the Mississippi Mass Choir. Utterly irressistable, enough to stir even the most incorrigible of unbelievers. "Guardian Angel," another collaboration with the Dan Penn/Gary Nicholson team, takes a more personal approach, offering heartfelt thanks for the simple miracle of having survived so far; Lee Roy's world-weary vocals carry the weight of utter conviction, and another smoldering slide solo tops this one off.. "Takes What It Takes" rides an organ-driven groove into more southern rock a la the Allman Brothers at their jazziest, before Lee Roy wraps things up with the simple balladry of Gretchen Peter's "Love's Been Hard For Me."
Mr. Parnell's voice isn't particularly distinctive, which may well be an advantage given the diversity of the material; he's able to tackle many different styles with equal success.
For all the influences apparent and all the guests aside, however, there's nothing at all derivitive here; Lee Roy is simply celebrating the music he truly loves, with a welcome eclecticism that defies pigeonholing. More power to him for it!
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This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.