Parker McCollum showed on his “Hollywood Gold” EP – released in November 2021 – that he was a little bit different to the usual country kids. He writes – or co-writes – all his material for a kick off and then there’s the bling image. He’s the “Gold Chain Cowboy” after all.

And here, on the full length follow-up, released last summer but on the pile of reviews that I never got around to at the time, he proves it in different ways too.

There’s one he writes on his own. A near three minute slice of searing honesty. “Rest Of My Life”,  has the words “Some drugs on the counter in the kitchen by the wine” and some beautifully evocative harmonica that belongs on an early Dylan record more than it does a Chase Rice one.

That is indicative, too, of the album. This is less a “down home, drinkin’ with the buddies by the lake, ain’t my little hometown fantastic” thing than most of his contemporaries. Instead, you are left wondering who the hell broke his heart.

Probably the girl from the opener “Wait Outside” a chugging little rocker, with a brilliant guitar and a chorus that goes all in. “I will love you in heaven, I’ll just have to wait outside,” he sings and, and that’s, actually probably as happy as this gets.

“Dallas” gets the ballads in early, Danielle Bradbury joins him for harmony, and the hurt seems real. Saying that, McCollum has a Jason Aldean-esque gift for writing a fantastic arena rocking chorus to go along with it, “To Be Loved By You” is a damn fine example as well being a damn fine song.

“Drinkin’” is one of a clutch that are more “country”,  most of it though, is a rock album. “Fallin’ Apart” could be on a record from the likes of Brian Adams. There’s a blue jean fist pump here, and even the slow ones like “Heart Like Mine” have one eye on a crossover.

It needs to be said, however, that he’s exceptionally good is young Parker. There’s a bit of an 80s feel to the brilliant “Why Indiana”. It builds to its hook like a Desmond Child penned tune from about 1986. That’s why I say he almost feels like an artist with his roots in his love of country, but without the shackles and a willingness to explore everything. “Pretty Heart” for one could have been full on “Texas” If you will, but it isn’t. For one thing the lyrics are more self -critical. This is definitely not her fault, that’s for sure.

There’s a slice of fun to end, “Never Loved You At All”, hides its misery with a jaunty slice of southern rock, and there’s a line here: “Yeah, that’s the reason God made honky tonks” and maybe that’s the enduring power of this type of music. There’s blokes the world over who want to feel they definitely never loved her at all. All Parker McCollum is doing is providing the soundtrack. He’s doing it well, though, and very much on his own terms.

Rating 8/10