Picks and Pans Review: Rock-a-Billy Boy

updated 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Mel McDaniel

McDaniel is like one of those offensive guards who spends 10 or 12 years with a pro football team without gaining anything more than brief recognition. He's the sort of guy who keeps the whole business going in a workmanlike sort of way, with no spectacular highs but no dismal lows either. This is McDaniel's 13th album since 1976, and it is full of appealingly gruff-sounding vocals. He seems, for instance, as if he knows whereof he sings on the sharp Gordon Kennedy—Rich Fagan tune "You Can't Play the Blues (in an Air-Conditioned Room)," about a long-struggling performer who meets with sudden success: "Now my life's too easy/ I think I'm gettin' soft/ I used to play the blues all day/ But now I just play golf." If McDaniel's version of the Temptations' old hit "The Way You Do the Things You Do" isn't the most soulful exercise of all time, he shows a lot of feeling for Jerry Fuller's "Oklahoma Shines" (McDaniel is from Okmulgee, Okla.) and tells the Danny Walls—Bob Warren story song "Reverend Luther and the Madam" with folksy tongue in cheek. This may not be, as country albums go, a long-gainer, but it is sure a first down with yards to spare. (Capitol)

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