(Hot Shot/Thirty Tigers)
4 out of 5 stars
In the early 70s, long before the term Americana was coined, some artists were already immersed in sound. Delbert McClinton is near the top of this list. There just aren’t many of his peers still active, vibrant and releasing new music.
McClinton taught John Lennon the basics of the harmonica while touring the Bruce Channel band in the early 60s with the Beatles, opening the show. And that’s just a little tidbit on a career biography that easily fills a page of fine print on Wikipedia. Although he was never a big star (although 1980s “Giving It Up For Love” was in the top 10 for a short time), McClinton’s eclectic mix of hard soul, blues, rock and roll, country, tex-mex, a little reggae, jazz and zydeco have rightly made him a roots icon and headliner for a cult following.
Six decades later, McClinton’s 27and studio album (there have been a handful of live ones and compilations too). The Texas-born and raised frontman returns to record songs by artists who influenced him. Unsurprisingly, this list is as diverse as its music. It includes classics and some obscurities written or sung by a varied set of legends, including Little Richard (“Long Tall Sally”), Jimmy Reed (“Ain’t That Lovin’ You”), Hank Williams (“Jambalaya”, ” Move It on Over”) and Ray Charles (“Hard Hearted Hannah”).
McClinton also contributes five new tracks showing that he’s still compelling as a songwriter who can craft a batch of tracks that fit easily into the retro vibe of this album without sounding outdated or like weak copies. Check out the dashing Texas Swinging “Money Honey” and the Lone Star blues of “Sweet Talkin’ Man” for proof that even in the early 80s and recently retired from the road, McClinton hasn’t lost a step.
Even if some of his choices are obvious, he draws from Hank Williams’ hits with enthusiasm and a palpable love of the material. He whips out that trusty harmonica for the fiery R&B rock of “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” and the slower bluesy “The Sun Is Shining,” the latter sounding like something Big Joe Turner might have recorded. There’s also plenty of old-school country with a new original “Two Step Too” (I like to listen to rock n’ roll/But honey, I also like the two step) which might be an obscure Bob Wills gem. And speaking of rock and roll, McClinton rips “Long Tall Sally” like he just heard it.
Credit goes to longtime co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Kevin McKendree, along with his similarly talented son, Yates, for keeping the sound fresh and alive on an album that’s as fun to hear as it sounds like McClinton made it. has recorded. He obviously has more wrinkles than the high school yearbook cover photo, and his still expressive, flinty voice shows some of the wear and tear that the years on the road will create. But this music is just as fiery and energetic as the one he played in his youth, which in itself is reason enough to add it to your collection. Or for newcomers, start here and backtrack to savor some of the most honest and unassuming American movies ever made.