Commercial success may continue to elude Delbert McClinton, arguably the quintessential Texas roadhouse rocker, but of late he's finally beginning to receive widespread critical acclaim. Were the superlatives employed to describe his last few efforts translated into dollars, he'd be a very rich man indeed. And justifiably so; he's nothing short of a national treasure. Like America itself, Delbert's music is a true melting pot, blending everything rootsy - blues, country, R&B, rock 'n' roll - into an altogether unique, brassy and ballsy sound that virtually epitomizes all that's good about the good ol' USA.
His last outing, his first for New West Records, finally put him firmly in control of his own output. The result, rather inappropriately titled "Nothing Personal," was perhaps his most personal disc ever, and the closest he'd yet come to realizing his own musical vision. Now he's back with "Room To Breathe," this time co-writing every tune, co-producing, co-arranging the horns . . . but while he may have had a little help, the result is all Delbert, and all very good indeed.
Delbert's songs - his co-writers include long-time collaborator Gary Nicholson, Benmont Tench, even Kim Wilson - seem to gain more and more depth. Whereas he's always had a way with an irresistible hook, here the songs feature melodies just a little less obvious, changes just a little trickier than one expects. Subtle surprises abound, and the textures seem more layered, more moody than ever before; they may not be as catchy on first listen, but they tend to burn deeper, last longer for all that.
Lyrically Delbert remains a recalcitrant rascal, still wearing his heart on his sleeve after all these years. And whether the subject is a willingness to party hearty with nary a though for tomorrow or lingering regret over what might have been, Delbert the singer is unfailingly convincing. His voice has always had an appealing, sandpapery rasp to it, and his phrasing is utterly impeccable; in many ways he's like Texas' answer to Van Morrison, able to inject deep soul into what, in lesser hands, would be the most mundane of lyrics. If it's a sad song one feels the very weight of the world on Delbert's shoulders; if happy, one feels the same carefree exuberance as he.
Is Delbert a bluesman? Well, he doesn't restrict himself to the blues, despite what might be called a bluesy thread running through everything he does. He's far too eclectic for easy categorization. But it would be churlish to deny him the right to call himself anything he wants; when it comes to Americana, Delbert virtually defines the genre. And "Room To Breathe" proves he just keeps getting better and better.
Quite possibly a masterpiece - my very highest recommendation!
New West Records, LLC.
P.O. Box 4700, Austin, Texas 78765
Web: www.newwestrecords.com or www.delbert.com
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order this CD NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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