Album Review – Parker McCollum’s “Never Enough”

photo: Jim Wright

Parker McCollum is never going to appeal to a certain crop of country music fans, no matter what he cuts. He’s too pretty, too perfect, and too good. The dorks, losers, ropers, and outright rednecks out there are reminded way too much of that preppy boy in high school who got all the girls and always got out of trouble whenever Parker takes the stage.

Now on his second major label release, Parker continues to offer songs that go a little bit deeper than the surface compared to much of the mainstream. But this isn’t the mainstream of 2021, and this isn’t the Parker McCollum of 2017 making waves down in Texas. The times have seen the songs get better, the sound get twangier, and the competition more tough. This is the environment in which McCollum releases his sophomore album.

Parker roped in a lot of the right people to help make the new album Never Enough something that was more than enough for his fans. Co-writers include fellow Texas country headliners Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen, critically-acclaimed stalwarts Lori McKenna and Liz Rose, and Hillary Lindsey even joins in on a song for an official appearance of the famous “Love Junkies” songwriter troika. Jon Randall also shares a few co-writes to go along with his producer credit for the album.

Parker McCollum at his best knows how to create momentum in a song like few others, and conjoin it with an enveloping melody. This is what his early hits like “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hell of a Year” did perfectly. It’s also what was lacking to an extent from his last album Gold Chain Cowboy. Here Parker McCollum finds that magic again on numerous occasions. “Stoned” isn’t especially well-written or novel, but it’s what McCollum does with it that makes it moving and anthemic by the end. He does this again on the song “Wheel.”

“Hurricane” is a great idea for a song, and great execution for an opening track. “Things I Never Told You” was the only song on the album Parker didn’t co-write, but it was a great track to include on an album released two days before Mother’s Day. Even Parker McCollum critics will have to concede that “Lessons From An Old Man” is an excellent song. This waltz crowns the album as the most quality, and the most country song on it.

Among the 15 songs, there are some valiant efforts from Parker McCollum. But the production is always rather mid and unremarkable. Instead of Jon Randall working to instill some uniqueness and character into this music, he leans into the rather generic nature of Parker’s approach, emphasizing it as opposed to attempting to resolve it. When you combine that with the rather weak hook for the album’s big single “Handle On You,” and rather generically-written songs like “Tough People Do” and “Tails I Lose,” you can understand why some consider the Parker McCollum juice not worth the squeeze.

“Burn It Down” is the song Parker co-wrote with The Love Junkies. Along with the writing being curiously unremarkable (only 1 1/2 verses), the production is sheer adult contemporary pop. “Have Your Heart” is a good song, and an even better performance by Parker. But at this point, we’re so far into the realm of pop contemporary with the piano accompaniment and Parker’s falsetto, you have to ask why we’re even trying to portray this as “country.”

The problem with Parker McCollum in 2023 is not as much Parker or his approach. It’s just that there are so many other people doing better, more country, and more interesting things now. With the bar that artists like Lainey Wilson, Ashley McBryde, and even Megan Moroney are setting, the competition is stiff. Parker has always been a pragmatist with his sound. But where previously he was a good bridge between the independent and the mainstream, now so many folks have crossed over that bridge, it can be easy to leave him behind as he remains somewhere in the middle.

Never Enough does have some quality songs and some good moments, but the 15 tracks work to dilute and bury them. This is an album to cherry pick through as opposed to playing in full. The best moments of Never Enough are also superior to the best moments of Parker’s previous album Gold Chain Cowboy. But the production and some of the songs fail to make a compelling argument for what we know Parker McCollum is capable of at his best. It’s also one of those albums where there are a lot of critical things to say, but measured against other mainstream peers, it’s still clearly superior.


– – – – – – – –

© 2024 Saving Country Music