Lee Roy Parnell, Jim Lauderdale Pace New Country Releases

Retrospectives Cover Marty Robbins, the Monroe Brothers, and Tom T. Hall

New releases from country hitmakers Lee Roy Parnell and Jim Lauderdale and a debut album from a well-regarded songwriter lead this week’s new country releases. In addition, several important reissues are coming out.

Parnell’s Tell the Truth is his first for Vanguard after being on Arista/Nashville for years. His trademark country blues is enhanced here by duets with Keb’ Mo’, Delbert McClinton, Bonnie Bramlett and The Mississippi Mass Choir.

Songwriter and balladeer Lauderdale’s The Other Sessions is his first release on new Nashville label DualTone. He wrote or co-wrote (with such stellar writing partners as Leslie Satcher and Harlan Howard ) all 12 songs on the album.

Elbert West is well known in country music circles for writing such No. 1 hits for Tracy Lawrence as “Sticks and Stones” and “Can’t Break It to My Heart.” His debut album Living the Life is on Broken Bow Records. West, who has been trying for years to get a recording contract, says the album is entirely autobiographical.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Audium Entertainment have released Marty Robbins Live Classics, a collection of 21 of Robbins ’ early performances on the Grand Ole Opy. Robbins was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982 and died that same year.

These live performances date from June 30, 1951, when Robbins made his Opry debut, through Feb. 6, 1960, by which time he was a well-established star. The album includes introductions by Red Foley and Ernest Tubb and applause from the Opry audiences.

The selections include songs Robbins never recorded for commercial release, notably “Ain’t You Ashamed” and “Good Night Cincinnati, Good Mornin’ Tennessee.” Many are familiar Robbins songs, such as “I’ll Go on Alone,” “Singing the Blues,” “El Paso,” “A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation),” “The Story of My Life,” “Just Married” and the movie theme, “The Hanging Tree.”

Bill and Charlie Monroe –- as the Monroe Brothers –- were an extremely influential 1930’s singing duo. They were together only four years before breaking up in 1938 when Bill began the musician experimentation that led to his founding bluegrass music. Even so, their RCA/Bluebird recordings from 1936-1938 remain classics of early string-band music and family harmonies.

Monroe Brothers: Just a Song of Old Kentucky is volume two of Rounder Records’ reissues of the Monroe works. The 15 songs here include the classic “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” as well as a number of early gospel songs such as “We Read of a Place That’s Called Heaven.”

Twenty-four of Tom T. Hall ’s more prominent compositions are collected in the retrospective Tom T. Hall: Ultimate Collection on Universal’s Hip-O label. This is a collection of RCA and Mercury singles, with one major exception. Hall never released his own version of perhaps his most famous song. “Harper Valley PTA” was a huge hit in 1968 for Jeannie C. Riley , but Hall himself never recorded it commercially. His previously unreleased demo of the song is included here and it’s a sparse, straight-forward version, with Hall accompanying himself on guitar.

The New Lost City Ramblers have been re-creating early 20th century rural string-band music since 1958. Some of their performances from the past four decades
are collected in 40 Years of Concert Recordings, a two-CD set from Rounder Records. Sixteen of the songs are previously unreleased.