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CD Review: Delbert McClinton

Acquired Taste (New West)

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Texas native Delbert McClinton honed his chops in a house band that played behind Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and Jimmy Reed. He also played harmonica in the early '60s for Bruce Channel and allegedly gave harp lessons to John Lennon. The Blues Brothers even covered McClinton's "B Movie Boxcar Blues" on their 1978 debut. In 1991, he scored a Grammy for his duet with Bonnie Raitt on "Good Man Good Woman." The chorus on his 2002 track "Lone Star Blues" features a who's who of alt-country and blues — Steve Earle, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Emmylou Harris and Guy Clark among them. McClinton has more connections than Hartsfield Airport.

For Acquired Taste, his first studio album in four years, McClinton doesn't stray far from what he's done in the past; amazingly, it's his entire past he draws upon. The album jumps to life with the rollicking roadhouse stomp of "Mama's Little Baby," eases into the smoky jazz-blues of "Starting a Rumor," honky-tonks along with "Can't Nobody Say I Didn't Try," lays out the heartbreak country on "Never Saw It Comin'" and fills the dance floor with the straight blues of "Do It" and "I Need to Know." John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Strait and B.B. King, take note: Your hits are ready. Through all the stylistic shifts, the songs bristle with McClinton's passionate energy, the consistent thread that ties it all together. With Acquired Taste, McClinton moves the needle on his career from acclaimed artist to bona fide national treasure. — Brian Baker

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