Delbert McClinton (courtesy photo)

Both physically and aesthetically, Delbert McClinton has always suggested a Texas-born Van Morrison. Both men are stocky and ruddy-faced singers trapped in the frames of construction workers and exuding all the glamour of Bob the Builder. They're both rooted in early R&B, and they've both been known to pull out a blues harp on occasion (though Morrison can hardly match McClinton's established virtuosity on the instrument).

Ultimately, the biggest difference between these two soulful belters - aside from the fact that one hails from Belfast, Ireland, and the other from Lubbock, Texas - is that Morrison has been a spiritual and philosophical adventurer, a complex brooder, while McClinton rarely strays from his Texas roadhouse roots. As a result, McClinton has never approached the transcendent peaks of Morrison's defining records, but he has also avoided the watery depths of Van's more languid, new-agey digressions.


with Seth James
Friday, November 21
Gruene Hall
1281 Gruene Rd.,
New Braunfels
As McClinton's new live album (on New West Records) confirms, Delbert's blue-collar rasp is showing serious signs of wear these days, but he makes the rough edges work for him, investing horn-driven numbers like "Old Weakness (Comin' On Strong)" and "Giving It Up for Your Love" (his lone dalliance with Top 40 radio) with the feel of hard-earned experience.

McClinton's like a sturdy oak tree. He doesn't call attention to himself, and it's easy to take his no-frills mastery for granted. But over a career that's lasted nearly half a century, he has outlasted plenty of pop saplings. •



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