“Window wide open in the back bedroom…
Smell of sweet huneysuckle in full bloom.
I feel an old weakness comin’ on strong.”
Along with the incomparable Doug Sahm, Delbert McClinton is a name synonymous with the sound of early Texas roots music. Unlike Sahm, McClinton’s career took decades to mature. His early recordings were not as a singer and songwriter, but as a touring harmonica player for other Texas based acts in the 1950’s. His solo work began attracting attention from critics in the 1970’s, as multiple compositions at the time were covered by several superstar acts. His sound and songwriting contain obvious nods to country, rock, blues and R&B, sometimes rendering his work unclassifiable, thus irrelevant to mainstream radio programmers. While most would peg his roadhouse boogie as closest to the outlaw movement in country music, it was never accepted by the Nashville elite. This has produced a well rounded career for Delbert McClinton, allowing him great success in the 1990’s with duet work and songwriting duties for many of that decades chart toppers.
After a string of albums in the 1970’s, Delbert McClinton dropped out of the recording industry to focus on touring exclusively. It wasn’t until a critically admired turn singing on virtuoso guitarist Roy Buchanan’s solo excursion “Dancing On the Edge” in 1986 on Alligator Records that he began a career renaissance. His new blues connection led to a two album stint on the up and coming label, releasing both a live and studio release that met with his greatest commercial success to date. His acclaim and success continued with country label Curb Records, producing the singles ‘Every Time I Roll the Dice’ and ‘Tell Me About It’ in 1992 and 1993, respectively. The rest of the 1990’s found McClinton gravitating away from the country side of his repertoire and focusing more on the gritty blues that his early work was known for. This resulted in the duet-heavy release “One of the Fortunate Few” for Rising Tide Entertainment in 1997. While the duets add a great deal to the proceedings, the production is tastefully executed and the material was top notch, a trend continuing through to today.
“One of the Fortunate Few” contained the track ‘Old Weakness (Coming on Strong)’, written by Gary Nicholson and Bob Dipiero. What could have become a run of the mill, pro forma country rock track explodes with life when performed by McClinton’s excellent backing band. His vocal delivery is also in tune with the lyrical motif, making such a statement that the song continues to be a concert staple today. Delbert McClinton continues to tour and record, with recent releases for New West Records topping the blues charts (“Nothing Personal” among them). Even with his success as a recording artist, his true forte has always been live performance. It is in this context that the great studio work lives and breathes these many years later.