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Delbert McClinton

Live – 2003 (New West)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Delbert McClinton

So, who flipped the switch on Delbert McClinton's career? Suddenly he's the darling of Americana radio, even garnering a good bit of mainstream attention. Yet, McClinton's raucous blend of blues, country, jazz and rock hasn't changed much over a 40-year career that got its start when McClinton blew his harmonica on Bruce Chanel's 1962 hit, "Hey! Baby."

For those who missed the past four decades of an often remarkable career, now's a good time to catch up. Though McClinton has two live recordings to his credit, the third one's definitely a charm. The 19-song, 2-disc set is McClinton at his beer-soaked roadhouse best, though the Lubbock, Texas native recorded the album over two nights at the Bergen Blues Festival in Norway.

There's familiar ground here, as McClinton opens with "Old Weakness (Comin' on Strong) and includes sizzling versions of "Giving It Up For Your Love" and "B-Movie Boxcar Blues." He also reaches back for the Otis Redding chestnut "Little Fine Healthy Thing."

It's not just McClinton singing in his gruff, raspy tenor blowing his harp. His backing band is top-shelf, as Rob McNelley simply wails on guitar while Terry Townson and Don Wise make the two-piece horn section sound like a full orchestra.With a couple Grammys and an armload of albums to his credit, McClinton hasn't completely toiled in obscurity. But this new-found recognition following 2001's Grammy-winning "Nothing Personal" and last year's Grammy-nominated "Room to Breathe" is a feel-good story - one that most everyone can catch up with now that his live album is out.