CATCHING UP WITH ... LEE ROY PARNELL

The Ring Of Truth

I'm holding my own, sang Lee Roy Parnell in one of his biggest hits. For him, those words still ring true. He fired off a string of smashes in the mid-'90s, including "On The Road," "Love Without Mercy" and "Heart's Desire" -- a remarkable achievement, especially given the way the Nashville establishment often frowns on the adventurous kind of musical spirit that has always steered Lee Roy's music.

"In Texas, you can have elements of the blues, R&B, soul and country, all mixed together," he explains. "But when you get into the industry, they want to really regulate what goes in what record bins. So I was really not looking for a record deal when I came to Nashville. I just never thought it would work!"

But it did -- for a while. Eventually Lee Roy was forced to look outside Nashville for a record label that would support his wide-ranging musical tastes. He found it in Los Angeles' Vanguard, which last summer released his sixth album, Tell The Truth.

"I wanted to make a record that was completely from the gut, the heart and the subconscious, and that's what I did," he says. "That record was the most honest one I've ever made."

But before recording Tell The Truth, Lee Roy put a cap on a very emotional period in his private life. When he left Texas in the '80s to try and make it in Nashville, the situation placed an enormous distance between Lee Roy and his two kids, Blake, now 21, and Allison, 17.

"I've spent more time moving than I have sitting still," he ponders. "But every time I'd come in off the road, I'd head back to Texas to see those kids."

Finally, Lee Roy took a much-needed break from touring -- and the timing couldn't have been better. He was able to devote his attention to both children just as they were experiencing some tricky growing pains.

"I worry about them," he admits. "Well, not so much anymore. They're great kids, but they both had some difficult times growing up, and I've seen them go through stuff that I never had to go through."

That settled, Lee Roy is looking forward to making his next album. On it, he plans to continue combining all the different sorts of music he loves.

"When I started out, I was so deeply into The Allman Brothers Band," he explains. "They mixed jazz, rock, blues, R&B and country, and that's all I ever tried to do. That's still what I try to do."

-- Tom Roland

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