Rob Roy Parnell Jacksboro Highway (Blue Rocket)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 3, 1999
Rob Roy Parnell
Jacksboro Highway (Blue Rocket)His older brother, Lee Roy, may have a successful career as a distinctive performer in today's country music, but Rob Roy Parnell's heart is buried deep in the blues. His debut, Jacksboro Highway, is in the same vein as early work by fellow Texas bluesmen Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Vaughan, and Kim Wilson; it serves up an ample supply of sly grooves and hard-blowing rockers. With Rob Roy's impressive harmonica chops and Lee Roy's trademark slide guitar leading the way, Jacksboro Highway overflows with skillful ensemble play. Together the brothers cover a broad cross section of jump, boogie, and soul, and while only four of the 11 tunes are original compositions, the rest come from the songbooks of Willie Dixon, Guitar Slim, George Harmonica Smith, and Big Walter Horton. These are not the same old covers that have been done to death, either. When was the last time anyone even considered covering "Oopin' Doopin' Doopin'" or the instrumental "Cotton Patch Hot Foot"? Better yet, the title track is surely the high point of the disc. A down and dirty extended guitar boogie, it features a vocal cameo by Waylon Jennings that's an unexpected surprise, what with the country legend's dusky growl being a perfect fit for the tune's dark tone. The sole downside of the project is Parnell's vocals, which are a bit on the reedy side and come up wanting on some of the songs, which need a bit more forcefulness. This is hardly an unusual circumstance in today's blues scene, where players have solid skills but are not the most effective singers, and while this may drain some of the power from the project, the musicianship is of a high enough quality to make Jacksboro Highway a fine listen.