july 2008

Rob Roy Parnell
Blue Rocket Records

Brother of Lee Roy, Rob Roy Parnell shares his sibling’s love of Texas roadhouse music—short for blues, hard country boogie and classic R&B—and testifies to the depth of his feelings on every well crafted cut of his sophomore album, Let’s Start Something. Co-writing ten of the dozen songs (teaming with stalwarts such as Stephen Bruton, Mike Cross and Dave Millsap) and rounding out the tune stack with steaming covers of Percy Mayfield’s “Loose Lips” and Roy Brown’s rollicking “Lollipop Mama,” Parnell delivers on all fronts, putting the songs over with a personable, blues-tinged tenor and spicing the arrangements with his own pointed commentary on the harmonica. Working with members of Delbert McClinton’s band, Parnell mostly goes for broke here, which allows guitarist James Pennebaker to stretch out on some electrifying solo jaunts; the closest the band comes to mellow is on the simmering R&B ballad, “Rose Petals,” an occasion for Parnell to deliver a knockout broken-hearted lover’s plea, his grievances supported by Kevin McKendree’s humming B3 and bluesy piano interjections; a sizzling, wailing solo from Pennebaker; and his own vibrant harp moans. The honky tonk stomp of “Long Distance Love” is lent added buoyancy by a familiar, soaring bit of slide work—that would be brother Lee Roy—and the gutsy soul belting of backup vocalist Jonell Mosser; Mosser has another star turn engaging Parnell in sassy call-and-response parts on the unrepentant boogie burner, “If Mama Ain’t Happy.” A driving attack propels the Parnell-Sarah Brown co-write, “That’s What the Blues Is All About,” a lively treatise on the grind of a working blues band—“That’s my side of the story/All sweat and not much glory/But I’m singing ‘bout the things that really care/That’s what the blues is all about”—in which Parnell, with Brown adding smooth harmonies to the choruses, tells it as it is, for better or for worse, but without a morsel of self-pity; indeed, if anything he proclaims his travails with near-palpable pride in a job well done, night after night. Good for him, and very good for us. On the modest but agreeable terms of endgendering a rockin’ good time, Let’s Start Something delivers in spades.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024