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Delbert McClinton Delbert McClinton
Album: Tall, Dark And Handsome
Label: Thirty Tigers
Tracks: 14
Website: http://www.delbert.com

After six decades in the music business there's no sign of a let up with Delbert McClinton's 2019 release 'Tall, Dark & Handsome'. Described as a 'Roots and music visionary' by Rolling Stone, McClinton has won 3 Grammy Awards and his previous 3 albums have all reached #1 or #2 on the Billboard Blues charts. With over 60 years of recording and gigging to his name he has toured with the Beatles, backed Bo Diddley and Howlin' Wolf, helped to inspire the Blues Brothers and played everywhere from SNL to Austin City Limits. His songs have been covered by Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Waylon Jennings and Wynonna Judd to name but a few.

We are told that this latest album 'dives deep into the Blues, Americana and beyond' with 14 new songs all written or co-written by McClinton and features his own band the Self Made Men + Dana, with Dana Robbins saxophone, Jack Bruno drums, Mike Joyce bass, Bob Britt guitar, James Pennebaker guitar, Kevin McKendree keyboards and Dennis Wage, keyboards.

As a final preamble to the review, in a great quote Lyle Lovett claimed "If we could all sing like we want to, we'd all sound like Delbert McClinton"!

Opening track 'Mr Smith' barges unceremoniously in on crashing drums, horns and McClinton's archetypal rasp of a voice that carries this jazzy, scatty song through, and with barely a pause its straight into the reverbed driven Texas blues of 'If I Hock My Guitar' then, in a dizzying stylistic shift, the vaudeville swing of 'No Chicken On The Bone', all Jazz chords and sweet fiddle fills.

Song four 'Let's Get Down Like We Used To' is a leisurely number that rolls through with great harmony vocals on the chorus,'Gone To Mexico' is suitably Mariachi paced, 'Lulu' a jazzy, shuffle sound that conjures images of Steely Dan, and 'Loud Mouth' back to smart, soulful Texas blues.

And so it goes throughout the rest of the album, the pace never settles and the quality never drops.

With the length of Delbert McClinton's career, most new albums are going to be a case of preaching to the converted but the new listener will also find much to enjoy here. As always, favourites will of course be personal but other stand outs for me are the 12 bar blues of 'Down In The Mouth', a rare ballad in 'Any Other Way' with piano lead lines and a laid back feel reminiscent of Randy Newman, and the stripped back 'Temporarily Insane' that boasts the albums stand out vocal from McClinton.

'Tall, Dark & Handsome' is simply another in a long line of great Delbert McClinton albums. The songwriting is assured, the playing exuberant across any number of stylistic twists and turns, all held together by that marvellous voice. The winning streak continues, and long may it last.

Paul Jackson