It’s not too much of a stretch to think of Lee Roy Parnell as a cross between Duane Allman and Merle Haggard.
Oh yeah, and Bob Wills, too.
“I’m a fifth-generation Texan with a rural upbringing,” says Parnell, who will appear at the Silver Mountain Amphitheater on Sunday. “The lyrics to my songs are a very country thing, but the heart and the back beat of the music are the blues.
“It’s a strange combination, but it’s only strange if you’re not familiar with the roots of country music. I’m really just a product of my environment.”
It’s an interesting distinction: At one time, country, rock, R&B; and blues were joined at the hip. To serve marketing purposes, the industry segregated them, largely along racial lines. A handful of musicians - Ray Charles is the best example - have been able to realign the genres, but by and large, the industry still thinks of music in terms of black and white.
Musicians like Parnell aim to explode the divisions.
Despite falling into the country camp, Parnell is widely recognized as one of the greatest slide guitar players around, and slide is an instrument normally associated with the blues.
In another breach of country convention, Parnell’s band, the Hot Links, accompanies him in the recording studio. Typically, studio sidemen do the recording honors.
But Parnell has never been your normal country musician. He was reared on Bob Wills and got into the Allman Brothers as a teen. His first gig was with Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys.
He later played with two of the greats of Texas country/R&B;, Delbert McClinton and Joe Ely. His own music covers the gamut - and precious little of it caters to the demands of Nashville. His new LP, “Every Night’s A Saturday Night,” covers everyone from Merle Haggard to Guy Clark and explores a musical terrain that stretches from roadhouse blues to western swing.
But even if Parnell isn’t your garden-variety contemporary country act, he has still managed to make an impression on country radio. “Lucky Me, Lucky You,” the new single from “Every Night’s a Saturday Night,” his fourth LP, is mounting a steady climb up the charts.
At a time where there’s precious little room for individuality in Nashville, Lee Roy Parnell has been able to carve out a little breathing space for himself.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Lee Roy Parnell will perform Sunday at 3 p.m. at Silver Mountain Amphitheater. Tickets are $27.50 and $21.50, available at G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets or call (800) 325-SEAT.