Lee Roy Parnell, Jim Lauderdale Pace New Country Releases

Retrospectives cover Marty Robbins, the Monroe Brothers, 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. Several important reissues will also hit stores.

Parnell's Tell the Truth is his first album for Vanguard after years on Arista/Nashville. Parnell's trademark country blues sound 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 partners as Leslie Satcher and Harlan Howard) all 12 songs on the album.

Elbert West is well-known in country circles for writing such #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 long sought a record contract, told Country.com that the album is entirely autobiographical.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Audium Entertainment have released Live Classics, 21 of Robbins' early performances on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Robbins was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982 and died that same year. These live performances date from June 1951, when Robbins made his Opry debut, through February 1960, by which time he was a well-established star. The album includes introductions by Red Foley and Ernest Tubb and authentic Opry-audience applause.

The collection includes 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 movie theme "The Hanging Tree."

Bill and Charlie Monroe, the Monroe Brothers, were an influential 1930s singing duo. They lasted only four years before breaking up in 1938, when Bill began the musical experimentation that led to his creating bluegrass. Their 1936-38 RCA/Bluebird recordings, though, epitomize early string-band music and family harmonies.

Just a Song of Old Kentucky is the second volume of Rounder Records' Monroe Brothers reissues. These 15 songs include the classic "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" and such early gospel songs as "We Read of a Place That's Called Heaven."

Twenty-four of Tom T. Hall's more prominent compositions are anthologized on Ultimate Collection from Universal's Hip-O label. In addition to his RCA and Mercury singles, the collection includes the demo version of perhaps his most famous song, one he never recorded himself. "Harper Valley PTA" was a huge hit in 1968 for Jeannie C. Riley, and Hall sings a sparse, straightforward version of it here accompanied only by his acoustic guitar.

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