Legendary blues rocker Delbert McClinton has had a number of connections with country music, particularly as a songwriter but also duetting with Tanya Tucker and touring with Willie Nelson. His son Clay, based in Texas, recruited country songwriter and producer Gary Nicholson to produce his latest solo album, and while it is an eclectic album, it draws strongly on his country influences, with Tex-Mex, blues and jazz thrown in the mix.
Clay isn’t as distinctive a vocalist as his father, but his rough-edged voice works well on his material. It has a naturally melancholy tinge which is at its most effective on the wearied waltz ‘A Woman That Can’t Be Explained’, which has a slightly ragged 70s outlaw country feel which is very attractive. One of a number of Nicholson/McClinton collaborations, this is my favorite track. The protagonist is as puzzled by his sweetheart’s many contradictions when they split as when they first get together.
The pair’s laid-back ‘Wildflowers’ admires free-spirited women in a more straightforward way.
The cheerful honky tonker ‘Beer Joint’ (co-written with dad Delbert, and featuring backing vocvals from 60s rocker Bruce Channel) is another favourite, in which the protagonist turns down an expenses-paid exotic trip in favour of a party at his local bar.
The rueful ‘Hydrated’ faces a hangover with witty resolve and the hair of the dog:
Everything I read says you need at least 8 glasses a day
So put a little more ice in your drink and you might get enough that way
I ain’t no nutritionist but let’s make one thing clear
There’s a whole lot of corn in alcohol and there’s a whole lot of water in beer
Drink plenty when you exercise
Drink plenty out in the sun
I get my electrolytes mixing Gatorade and rum
It was written by Clay and Nicholson with Tom Hambridge, as was the very different ‘Sound Of A Small Town’, a gently understated and beautifully detailed portrait of life in a rural community. ‘Bound For Glory’ is a fine tribute to American folk pioneer Woody Guthrie.
‘Stories We Can Tell’ is a co-write with dad Delbert, and has the bluesy groove typical of the latter’s work. A sultry cover of 60s pop hit ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)’ is in similar vein. Bluesy mid-tempo love song ‘Nobody Knows My Baby’ is a bit dull.
Delbert helps out vocally on a sturdy version of his classic song ‘Victim Of Life’s Circumstances’. a number of other covers are also included. The country classic ‘Poison Love’ (a hit for Johnnie & Jack in 1951) gets an enjoyable Tex-Mex makeover with joyful fiddle and accordion work, which works really well. ‘What A Little Love Can Do’, written by producer Nicholson with Stephen Bruton for the Crazy Heart soundtrack, is quite good
I was very pleasantly surprised by this album, particularly the quality of the songwriting.