Album Reviews

Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men

Prick of the Litter

Artist:     Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men

Album:     Prick of the Litter

Label:     Hot Shot/Thirty Tigers

Release Date:     01/27/2017

90

Come. Stay. This bad boy is on his best behavior, obvious before even dropping the needle on Prick of the Litter. Song after song, Delbert McClinton outdoes himself on his 19th studio album. Everything that makes the man one of the most treasured roots and blues singer/songwriters and harmonica players from Texas, ever, is here, plus some. At it for six decades, McClinton at 76 sounds like a premier entertainer in his prime, changing up his mix of music to keep it enticing. For every signature McClinton rocker like the marauding, horn-blasted “Skip Chaser,” several others glide smoothly at much jazzier paces. Delbert McClinton’s roughhewn voice has been the blueprint for a thousand singers. When he croons the tropical-breezy “San Miguel,” his carefree mood puts the listener in the same place. Remarkable, that sublime, exhilarating tunefulness, after all these years. Skip back to “Skip Chaser” for a sec. The Self-Made Men fall into place on that one with the kind of cool ease only veterans can pull off.

The size and scope of the musicians and backing singers assembled depends on their service to the song, but a core band of Delbert players anchors it all. “Don’t Do It” ignites the album with some real Texas T for T-Bone (Walker) and T-Birds (Fabulous), receiving its extra tough and sexy punch by the added company of guitarist Jimmie Vaughan and singer Lou Ann Barton. It’s refreshing to hear that combo back in this context. But things change quickly, albeit smoothly as silk. “Pulling the Strings” paints a picture of a man torn about personal freedom, underlined by a smoky, mid-tempo nightclub sway. An old New Orleans brass vibe adds tremendously to the optimistic thoughts behind “Jones for You,” while “The Hunt is On” swings like the devil. “Bad Haircut” stumbles drunken, but then “Rosie” closes it all down so encouragingly. The whole package—album title, band name, and certainly the music—is as American as apple pie, and extraordinary. That’s Delbert McClinton, folks.

-Tom Clarke

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