November 2005

Delbert McClinton - Cost of Living
New West NWA3013
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

When Delbert McClinton was still in his teens in the late '50s, he was a member of the house band at a Fort Worth, Texas blues club. That job gave him the opportunity to play behind a number of blues legends as they came through town, including Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed. In 1962, McClinton’s harmonica line on Bruce Channel’s "Hey Baby" helped propel the song to number one. He was touring with Channel in England when he met a musician in a then-unknown band whom he taught a few harmonica riffs. John Lennon later adapted those riffs for "Love Me Do."

With many records behind him and a venerable history in music, McClinton could be forgiven if he decided to take it easy at age 65. Instead, Cost of Living is a potent demonstration of his mastery of American roots music. It opens with a ripping New Orleans-style rocker, "One of the Fortunate Few," and by the disc’s final track McClinton has touched on blues, R&B, country, and more. He jumps from the urban blues of "Your Memory, Me and the Blues" to the thumping rock'n'roll of "Dead Wrong" and nails both with equal skill and conviction.

Cost of Living features great musicians who can play anything McClinton throws at them. The soundstage is a bit crowded, but the recording is energetic and atmospheric. McClinton sings with the vigor of a man half his age and could probably go on making records this good for a long time. Let’s hope he does.