From a blues reviewer's perspective, this disc invites a "good news, bad news" comparison. The good news is this is McClinton's strongest release for many years. A new deal, a new label and a lengthy time since his last release have apparently inspired McClinton. The bad news is, this is really mostly a country disc. But there's more good news - this is more the country of the back room of a Texas roadhouse than a sanitized LeAnn Rimes TV spectacular.
McClinton uses a number of vocal styles from a smokily robust r&b to a lazy half-spoken style reminiscent of Kenny Rogers' "Ruby." The disc's opener, "Livin' it Down," is in the former style and features some fine honky-tonk piano. A number of tracks - "Gotta Get It Worked On," "Squeeze Me In," "Baggage Claim," "All Night Long," "Desperation" - have a Big Easy, Cajun shuffle feel. "When Rita Leaves" is a Ruby-like half-spoken tear jerker over a simple cowboy acoustic guitar backing that tells when Rita ran away to Mexico, taking the singer's '64 Mustang. "Birmingham Tonight" gets close to archetypal country with spoken verses over pedal steel guitar and traditional country ballad sensibilities to the lyrics. "Don't Leave Home Without It" has more of the same. "Nothin' Lasts Forever" and "All There Is Of Me" are bluesier, the former featuring some nice harp playing while "All" is half-spoken and more towards "Nothin' But The Blues". "Read Me My Rights" gets downright soulful over piano and organ. The disc's closer is, I suspect, highly autobiographical....'I'm where I wanna be, sitting here "Watchin' the Rain."' The arrangement on this track has a muted ragtime trumpet over a folkily strummed guitar. The musical production throughout is impeccably understated with small-combo backings, perfect musicianship and just a few unexpected touches that compliment McClinton's vocals. Recommended.
This review is copyright © 2001 by David Coffin, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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