Review – Delbert McClinton – Cost of Living

A retro video of Emmylou and Delbert singing Two More Bottles of Wine

Delbert McClinton

Cost Of Living

(New West) Everyone’s favorite genre-bending performer Delbert McClinton remains on a hot streak with his lastest release, Cost Of Living. He once again teams with longtime collaborator and co-producer Gary Nicholson and delivers 13 tracks, all of which Delbert had a hand in writing, with the exception of the Jimmy Reed classic, “I’ll Change My Style.” In addition to Gary Nicholson, among his heavy hitting co-writers are Glen Clark (his former partner in 70’s Texas duo, ‘Delbert & Glen’), Jim Weatherly, former NRBQer Al Anderson, John Barlow Jarvis and Tom Hambridge. Along for the ride with Delbert and Gary in the studio is an “A” list mix of McClinton band members, Kevin McKendree, Rob McNelley, Lynn Williams, Spencer Campbell and Don Wise, and studio musicians that include Steve Mackey, Bill Campbell, James Pennebaker, Stuart Duncan, Jim Hoke, Al Anderson, Tom Hambridge and Gary Nicholson. Bekka Bramlett, Tom Hambridge, Russell Smith, Jeffrey Steele and Crystal Talifaro provide additional vocals. Although Delbert’s built his decades long career by masterfully combining blues, country, R&B and rock (and virtually all of their variations) into his music, his two previous albums, the Grammy winning Nothing Personal and it’s follow-up, the Grammy nominated Room To Breathe, found Delbert leaning more towards the blues. Cost Of Living finds him moving back to his Texas roots as he delivers an equal dose of his honky tonk influences alongside his more bluesy fare. Cost Of Living opens with the raucous “One Of The Fortunate Few” (not to be confused with his excellent ‘97 album of the same name), where he skillfully combines roadhouse honky tonk, Tex-Mex and a funky R&B groove, while giving the song an overall Bayou flavor. The witty “Right To Be Wrong” that incorporates a grinding tempo change that features some great boogie-blues piano and the slightly racy “The Part I Like Best” are rollicking, swampy blues-rockers. Neither Delbert nor the band, take any prisoners, and they burn the place down on the smoking roadhouse rocker, “Dead Wrong.” In the swinging boogie number, “Hammerhead Stew,” he professes his willingness to do anything for a woman. Delbert moves way over to his
Texas country roots with several songs on Cost Of Living. The first finds him doing something a little different and the result is the stunning “Down To Mexico,” a modern day outlaw tale of betrayal that he masterfully
delivers by way of a dusty, western flavored border ballad. Another highlight is “Midnight Communion,” a shuffling, drunken barroom sing-a-long that’s nothing short of brilliant. Honky tonk piano, sawing fiddle and a blistering rockabilly guitar riff drive “I Had A Real Good Time,” while Delbert confesses “I like to listen to rock & roll, but honey I like to two-step too” in “Two Step Too,” a pair of goodtime two-steppers. He then proceeds to tear your heart out with the aching Tex-Mex inflected ballad of a love gone wrong- but it’s the loss of his treasured daughter he mourns as the result of divorce in, “Kiss Her Once For Me.” And speaking of heartache, Delbert’s a master at delivering that too. He takes the Jimmy Reed blues classic about begging for another chance, “I’ll Change,” and turns it into a smoldering, bump and grind belly-rubber. Delbert handily makes you feel the gut wrenching pain of heartache as it oozes out of the smoky, R&B late night lounge ballad, “Your Memory, Me And The Blues.” He’s definitely no slouch in the romance department either, as he conjures up a bit of Charles Brown with the tender, slow burning “Alright By Me.” Through his razor sharp wit and a worldly wisdom he’s gained along the way, his lyrics are stories that anyone can relate to, whether they be tales of lost love, betrayal or regret, a found love and romance, or just cutting loose and partying down. He’s a pro who’s learned how to use his soulfully weathered voice and has mastered the skill of delivering the perfect vocal inflections that one minute, has people up and dancing to his hard driving mix of roadhouse honky tonk-rhythm and blues-boogie, and the next, he’s tearing out your heart with tales of pain and heartache. The appeal of Delbert McClinton’s music and songwriting comes from his honesty, he is who he is, and remaining true to that has been a constant throughout his long career. In the past few years people are finally catching up to Delbert, and it’s finally good to see that after decades of being under-appreciated, this terrifically talented performer is starting to get some long overdue recognition. And with that, Delbert McClinton has scored yet another top notch effort with Cost Of Living. Standout Tracks: “One Of The Fortunate Few,” “The Part I Like Best,” “I’ll Change My Style,” “Your Memory, Me And The Blues,” “Dead Wrong,” “Down To Mexico,” “I Had A Real Good Time,” “Midnight Confession” On The Net:

 AnnMarie Harrington

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