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Delbert McClinton

Room to Breathe – 2002 (New West)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Delbert McClinton

Following the success of last year's "Nothing Personal," which earned a Grammy for Best Blues Album, Delbert McClinton has returned with another winner; a tangy mixture of R&B, soul and country. It's a compelling mixture, commonly heard in the '70s and well into the '80s, but relegated to the sidelines over the past 15 years or so as radio's priorities have changed.

All the more's the pity. Co-produced and largely co-written by McClinton and Gary Nicholson, this finds the 61-year-old McClinton in fine voice. Most likely to get attention is the two-step of "Lone Star Blues," featuring backing vocals from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, The Flatlanders, Billy Joe Shaver, and at least another half-dozen ringers. More compelling are the numbers on which McClinton is able to stretch out. Roadhouse stomper "Ain't Lost Nothin'" features a great harmonica solo from McClinton. "Everything I Know About the Blues" finds McClinton working territory once mined to great effect by Van Morrison, Al Green and the young Tom Waits. And the ballad "Don't Want to Love You" seems a fit for the AC market.

If this all sounds a bit schizophrenic, a better adjective might be "eclectic." McClinton is working a number of styles here, admittedly. But he does so with class and ease.