New West Records CD NW6024, 2001 (49:52)
Predictably good stuff
Glenn Brooks, 2 December 2001
About four years ago, the fiercely independent Delbert McClinton came hopping back with One of the Fortunate Few, an album featuring guest stints by the likes of John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Mavis Staples, Vince Gill, and oh, hell, B. B. King too. In spite of the heavy artillery, it was a good album, and thoroughly Delbert. From the guest list, you can tell where he is coming from: that old fissure between country and blues, where the roadhouse crowd mingles.
Now, here comes Nothing Personal, on a new label, with fewer guests and more Delbert. Nothing wrong with that. The good-humored irony is intact, the lyrics are still clever, and - best of all - the music cooks. Delbert is not exactly blues (although that is where you are likely to find this album in your local CD store, assuming you still have one). Nor is he really country, or rhythm'n'blues or soul. But all of these Southern streams feed his muse.
This is feel-good (often by feeling bad) music. The themes are pretty familiar: the second and third songs both feature departing lovers (Loretta and Rita, respectively). Loving and losing, boogying too much and regretting it, and growing older if not wiser - you know the territory, but Delbert is a good guide.
The music is genuinely fine, alternating between two basic groups that both know how to keep the honky-tonk going. Iris Dement helps out on one song, but that's about it for star names - unless you count Benmont Tench.
Delbert's lyrics sometimes rely a bit too heavily on the country music trick of grabbing a popular phrase and turning it on its head. So we get "Don't Leave Home Without It," "Read Me My Rights," and "Gotta Get It Worked On." For me, these hand-me-downs don't quite click. And the predictability quotient is pretty high: in a bluesy number that starts "she's in a hotel, where she won't tell, and it's damn well..." what would you guess comes next? That's right: "...killing me."
But then he spins out a line like "Took all her clothes but one red dress, the one she knows I liked the best, all I could do was clean up the mess and wonder where she had gone" - and cuts you to the quick. That's from the album's hands-down best song, "When Rita Leaves," a Tex-Mex ballad of heartbreak that deserves to be a classic.
Good stuff. Here I am listening to "Watchin' the Rain" on a cold wet Northwest November day, but there is enough of Texas sun in the song and Delbert's voice to make me think fondly of a Lone Star. Here's to you, Delbert.
performers Delbert McClinto, guitar, harmonica, vocals; Todd Sharp, electric guitar; Gary Nicholson and Johnny Lee Schell, guitars; Kevin McKendree, piano, organ; Hutch Hutchinson or George Hawkins, bass; Ricky Fataar or Lynn Williams, drums; and a few others, including Benmont Tench, chamberlin (whatever that is) and piano;
production Produced by Gary Nicholson and Delbert McClinton
Recorded by Don Smith and Juston Nieback and others
songs Livin' It Down · Gotta Get It Worked On · When Rita Leaves · Squeeze Me In · Birmingham Tonight · Baggage Claim · All Night Long · Don't Leave Home Without It · Desperation · Nothin' Lasts Forever · Read Me My Rights · All There Is of Me · Watchin' the Rain
of related interest
One of the Fortunate Few, Curb/Rising Tide CD rtd-53042, 1997
Do you sense a certain irony in Delbert's album titles? Anyway, this is his previous album, and it is just as good, maybe even a even just a tad better.
Sandy Beaches Cruises
Delbert runs Caribbean cruises with artists like Marcia Ball, Junior Brown, Asleep at the Wheel, Lloyd Jones, Tommy Castro, the Derailers, Del McCoury, and Wayne Toups & Zydecajun. If this sounds like fun to you - it sure does to me! - check it out at http://www.delbert.com.