McClinton's living is worth the cost


By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


August 23, 2005

Delbert McClinton
"Cost of Living"
New West Records

Like fellow Texan the late Doug "Sir Douglas" Sahm, roadhouse rocker Delbert McClinton recognizes no boundaries between musical genres. Blues, R&B, country, rock and Tex-Mex are just ingredients in a big, greasy stew.

And now, at 64 and finally allied with a sympathetic record label, McClinton has settled into a career phase admired in opera singers, bluesmen and previous generations of country stars but still ridiculed in, say, the Rolling Stones.

"Cost of Living" features harmonica ace McClinton and his fine band in a baker's dozen of genre-hopping tunes, all but one written or co-written by the singer. And that one, the slow-dance belly-bumper "I'll Change My Style," was recorded by the great Jimmy Reed, for whom McClinton blew harp in the late '50s.

McClinton, who played harmonica on Bruce Chanel's 1962 hit "Hey, Baby" and taught it to a young John Lennon, kicks off "Cost of Living" with three bluesy rockers.

The third, "The Part I Like Best," written with early-'70s partner Glen Clark, is about a guy who "never do fool around" because the part he likes "best is when she makes love to me." This is different than the desperate guy trying to make amends to his woman by claiming he has a "Right to Be Wrong."

Another highlight is a smooth ballad whose title is in the CD's best line: "I remember when it was the two of us/Now it's we three . . . 'Your Memory, Me and the Blues.'"

"Dead Wrong" is a classic revenge tale, "Down Into Mexico" documents a heist -- and a woman -- gone bad, and "Kiss Her Once for Me" aches for a father whose daughter is gone because of divorce.

Finally, if George Jones doesn't cover the hard-country "Midnight Communion," he's crazy: "It's midnight communion down on Second Avenue/They take the wine till closing time/A fellowship of fools."