Parker McCollum ‘Hollywood Gold’ Review: The Texan releases his first Nashville label EP and it gets the Music City treatment
When we reviewed Parker McCollum’s 2018 album Probably Wrong, we assured you that you’d be hearing a lot more from this Texan songwriter. Fast forward two years and a major Nashville label has snapped him up, with various news outlets now ‘discovering’ this ‘new’ and ‘up and coming’ artist. Truth be told, McCollum has two albums under his belt, both released as an indie artists on his label PYM music, and done his time on the road in Texas and beyond. His new EP, and major label debut with MCA Nashville/UMG Nashville, Hollywood Gold (named after his grandfather’s prized horse) simply represents a new step in an already strong career.
When a Texan artist I love signs with a Nashville label, it fills me with all kinds of dread. Conjuring thoughts of processed beats and ridiculous raps in mind, I entered with some trepidation. Of course, these worries were all eased by the talent farmed in to help make this project great. Hell, even Chris Stapleton has a writing credit. But has McCollum retained the same soul of The Limestone Kid and Probably Wrong now he has the suits of Nashville pushing him down the cookie cutter, bring in a team of songwriters, suck the soul out of it country music industry? I really hope so, because I loved this guy.
Opening track Young Man’s Blues, a co-write with Randy Montana, isn’t a million miles from the McCollum we knew before. A song that somewhat ambles along, a little bit of slide guitar for good measure, it’s a bit like the slightly less interesting brother of Lonesome Ten Miles. It’s currently doing OK for radio airplay, guess that tells you what you need to know about country radio.
Like a Cowboy is the only song that McCollum doesn’t have a writing credit on. Co-written by Chris Stapleton and Al Anderson, its clearly a song that’s been chosen as it hits those classic Texan country themes. Production-wise, I find it a shame that the pedal steel is so quiet it barely registers at times, robbing the song of the opportunity to be a little more interesting. Its a decent song, better than many country songs at the moment, but just doesn’t grab me.
McCollum’s lead single from the EP, Pretty Heart, comes next. It’s a decent song, very busy in the production with a little more going than I think is necessary but hey ho. Lyrically, it’s as strong as ever, as McCollum ponders how he’s mistreated someone and what that really says about him as a person. It’s introspective and raw without being presented with the heart of Hell of a Year.
Hallie Ray Light, when it’s stripped down to the guitars and vocals shows McCollum’s talent for what it really is. This ode to his long term girlfriend is a well written love song about letting your guard down to a new love. However, Jon Randall Stewart on production duties has just cluttered it full of instruments bouncing off each other and getting in the way. The slide guitar is nice but it just seems to never shut up. It’s typical Nashville production – sometimes less is more, guys!
Hang on, the producer has found some lovely reverb and echo for one of his many guitars this time. Hold Me Back is a nice song that follows the story from Pretty Heart, the guy who is out of control and dangerous. McCollum shows how his vocals have developed and strengthened since his last record. It just feels like this song has been made a little mid tempo and doesn’t really go anywhere.
I’m about to contradict myself, but on Love You Like That McCollum’s vocals sound more like I’ve always known them and it makes for one of my favourite songs on the album. Parker sings “I’m the same man that I’ve always been”, hopefully he continues to be that as this guy has the talent to be great and break the ‘young guy in Nashville’ mould.
Maybe I came into this EP with preconceived ideas. I’m pleased that Parker has managed to further his career with a big Nashville label, but it saddens me to hear how his music has just been given a standard Nashville touch up. He’s been lucky to avoid the synths and beats they give you (alongside the vest and the snapback) upon arrival and instead get this ‘house of a thousand guitars’ treatment. I think artists evolving and getting opportunities is great, but I feel the soul being sucked out of this a little.
If you’ve just ‘discovered’ Parker McCollum, go and listen to Hell of a Year or I Can’t Breathe from Probably Wrong. It’ll give you a better idea of who Parker is as an artist and the potential he has. None of this is criticism, it’s maybe a little frustration as a fan. This is a solid EP, no doubt, but when you know the talent of the guy you can’t help but want a little more. In fact, the songs are so well written and meaningful on this EP, that I’d squarely say the Nashville production is where it’s let down.
Jon Randall Stewart, you and your million layers of guitars need to let this boy fly!
1. Young Man’s Blues
2. Like a Cowboy
3. Pretty Heart
4. Hallie Red Light
5. Hold Me Back
6. Love You Like That
Six Shooter Rating
6.5 out of 10