Delbert McClinton: Nothing Personal

Andrew Gilstrap

Delbert Mcclinton

Nothing Personal

Label: New West
US Release Date: 2001-03-06

While many things may change over the years, the attitudes and vibes of your average roadhouse don't. In those places of smoky haze and neon lighting, people are pretty much concerning themselves with the same issues as the generations before them. So why should the music be any different? Sure, regional styles may vary -- it's unlikely that a Mississippi juke joint will offer the same fare as a place on the outskirts of Austin -- but the basic need is the same. You need songs for slow-dancing, songs for kicking up your heels, songs for crying in your beer, songs for mourning your most recent ghost, and songs for wooing your next sweetheart.

Delbert McClinton knows this, and he's never really aspired to anything but providing soundtracks for the salt of the earth. Apart from the occasional superstar guest, his records rarely delve into virtuosity, and his lyrics are of the plainspoken variety, as if too much poetry gets in the way of what needs to be said.

He's known as one of the best harmonica players on the planet, and his presence has added a much needed dose of R&B/rock/blues legitimacy to plenty of recordings. Nothing Personal, though, finds him in more of a singer/songwriter mode. The album marks only the third time that a McClinton album is dominated by tracks that McClinton wrote, or at least co-wrote, and the result is a batch of songs that often belies the album's title.

The slowest cuts are probably the most effective. They're filled with the sort of details that are informed by personal history. The south-of-the-border soaked "When Rita Leaves" features the stark image of a Ford Mustang getting torched. "Don't Leave Home Without It" describes the items that a lover places in his traveling lady's suitcase. "Birmingham Tonight" wallows in a teetering Southern drawl that's accentuated by Iris Dement on backing vocals.

Almost as effective as the love songs (or songs of leaving love) are the midtempo cuts like "Baggage Claim" or "Desperation". In these songs, McClinton assumes a wry J.J. Cale sound. Perhaps the album's only weakness is in the faster-paced, bar-brand cuts, where McClinton's crack band (especially Benmont Tench on keyboards), manages to hit many a fine groove, yet never raises cuts like "Livin' It Down" or "Squeeze Me In" to special heights. Probably compounding this impression is the relative absence of McClinton's fiery harp work. But performed live, I'm guessing these cuts would tear the roof off.

Overall, in Nothing Personal, McClinton sings songs of reflection that only the years can bring on. If he doesn't have the fire he once had, so what? As he puts it in "Watchin' the Rain", "Got all my snakes back in the box / Now I'm where I wanna be".

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.