Lee Roy Parnell

Tell The Truth – 2001 (Vanguard)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

CDs by Lee Roy Parnell

Texas singer/guitarist Parnell first all-new album in four years finds him making both a forward move it's his label debut and a backwards one. Billed as a return to his roots, the CD was recorded in Muscle Shoals, where he made his first recordings at age 18; with his old band along for the ride, it's a rhythm-and-blues-heavy outing that's likely to please both old fans and make him some new ones.

Parnell's music has always had a strong dose of roadhouse blues, and on this CD it's predominant, with guests Bonnie Bramlett, Delbert McClinton (who trades lines with Parnell on "South By Southwest") and Keb Mo' (on the acoustic-flavored "I Declare") adding their own flavors to the mix. Also on tap is the Mississippi Mass Choir of Jackson, Miss., whose gospel harmonies echo the singer's testifying on "Brand New Feeling." That one's co-written by Parnell, long-time collaborator Gary Nicholson and soul legend Dan Penn, and there are three more to go with it, giving the album a hard, consistent core.

The album closes with Gretchen Peters' ballad, "Love's Been Rough On Me." Other than that, it's a set that presents Parnell as a convincing r&b stylist.