My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Lee Roy Parnell – ‘On The Road’

ontheroad1993’s On The Road was Lee Roy Parnell’s third studio album and his last to be released on the main Arista label (subsequent releases would bear the Career imprint, an Arista subsidiary). Scott Hendricks, who had co-produced Parnell’s previous album, took over sole production duties, while Lee Roy shared songwriting credits on six of the album’s ten tracks. Unlike most of his 90s contemporaries, Parnell was neither a New Traditionalist nor a huge record seller. He did, however, score a handful of enduring radio hits, the most memorable of which is the Bob McDill-penned title track, which deals with three different instances of people who are ready to leave their unfulfilling lives behind in exchange for adventure into the unknown. Released in August of 1993, it was a perfect summertime single and it eventually peaked at #6. It’s one of my favorite Lee Roy Parnell songs.

“On The Road” was followed by another big hit, Tony Arata’s “I’m Holding My Own”, a midtempo number that was released in January 1994. It reached #3. He seemed to be on a roll as far as radio was concerned, but the album’s subsequent singles, both remakes of older country hits, didn’t fare as well. He beefed up his country credentials with a cover of the Hank Williams classic “Take These Chains From My Heart”, which is performed as a duet with Ronnie Dunn. I don’t ever remember hearing this on the radio and was surprised to learn that had been a single, and although not a huge hit it peaked at a very respectable #17. Even in the more traditional 90s, Hank Williams was a little too retro for country radio. His voice and Dunn’s blend together well and listeners who aren’t paying close attention might fail to notice that there are two people singing the song.

The album’s fourth and final single was a remake of “The Power of Love”, one of Charley Pride’s least country-sounding records, but a good choice for Parnell’s soulful voice. This one should have been a bigger hit, but it stalled at #51, far below the #9 peak of Pride’s original version from a decade earlier.

In another one of the album’s best songs, “Straight and Narrow”, Lee Roy and co-writer Tony Haselden rationalize — and make a compelling case for — occasionally skipping church in order to go fishing and other pursuits of life’s simple pleasures. The bluesy party anthem “Fresh Coat of Paint” is also quite good.

The album does contain two duds, both of which are Parnell co-writes with Gary Nicholson. “Straight Shooter” is a bit of bubble gum pop that sounds like a leftover from the Urban Cowboy days, while “Wasted Time”, in addition to being just plain dull, is based on the false premise that “there is no such thing as wasted time.” Well, yes, actually, there is. While neither of these are terrible songs, they both fall into the category of non-descript filler.

While not an oustanding album, On The Road is a good example of Lee Roy Parnell at his commercial peak. Cheap copies are readily available and it’s worth a listen.

Grade: B

5 responses to “Album Review: Lee Roy Parnell – ‘On The Road’

  1. luckyoldsun September 11, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    This was a great album. I must have seen it in the liner notes, but I didn’t remember that “On the Road” was a Bob McDill song. It’s a classic–and completely different from Willie Nelson’s similarly titled anthem. I have to admit, it is hard to tell Parnell and Dunn apart on “Take These Chains,” but they’re both great and it’s another classic cut even if radio wouldn’t play it. Heck, radio wouldn’t play George Strait doing Hank’s “I Got the Lovesick Blues” around that time, either.

  2. Leeann Ward September 12, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I got into country music when “I’m Holding My Own” was making its run up the charts, so I’m partial to that song. I do remember “Take These Chains” on the radio, but I was also obsessed with countdowns at the time. Radio did play George Straits version of “Lovebug” around that time, but I suppose Strait had more clout than Parnell. It was pretty amazing how similar Parnell and Dunn sounded, though I could tell them a part. I liked their version of “Take These Chains.”

    • Michael A. September 12, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      I vaguely remember the title track being used as the theme song for a country news/interview/video/performance show in the mid 90s. I think it may have even been called “On the Road”. Anyway, this was around the time I was also really getting into country music (the magic ages from 10-14 when most people seem to discover the music that will remain their favorite for life) and I was obsessed with the charts too. I can remember this climbing and peaking around the same time as Vince’s “Trying to Get Over You” and Mark Chesnutt’s “I Just Wanted You to Know”. This was when country music was just huge and I couldn’t get enough of TNN Country News with Debra Maffett, some other show on CMT or TNN that I can’t remember now, the then brand new publication Country Weekly, etc.

  3. luckyoldsun September 12, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    It’s like tying to tell Jones and Sammy apart on “Never Bit a Bullet Like This Before.”

  4. Leeann Ward September 13, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Michael, It sounds like our country music journey started right about the same time, including “I ust Wanted You to Know” being one of the songs that was climbing the charts when I got into country music! I also remember that On the Road show. I believe it was hosted by the guy who played Hank in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, William something. I ate up all the shows on TNN, including Music City Tonight and they’d have a nightly country music evening news show.

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