Delbert McClinton

Room to Breathe (New West Records)

Guys like Delbert McClinton ought to be looked at the way people think of fine wines: Some things just get better with age. The 62-year-old McClinton finds ways to strengthen and sharpen his vision, telling stories that are personal and universal with the same few strokes.

The cover of McClinton's new CD shows the ironic lad leaning forward like an uncle you can trust. McClinton runs through 12 solid numbers, all of them original, all sounding like standards. Without so much as breaking a sweat, Clinton achieves the kind of effortless, whistle-smooth Texas honk that Jagger & Co. hire trainers to achieve.

"Same Kind of Crazy" illustrates the story of another in a long line of Texas iconoclasts who discovers, to his delight, a mate who echoes his every fault and fancy. "Smooth Talk" is a "Get Off My Cloud" finger wag at media hype-ocrisy and cultural hard-sell, while "Jungle Room" is devil-child glee, Cramps Lite, a juke joint jingle.

Along the way, McClinton succumbs to a Texas orgy barnstormer ("Lone Star Blues") featuring everybody from Steve Earle to Ray Benson, and a proud and heartfelt ode to Manhattan ("New York City") that makes it sound as though McClinton loved the grandest borough even before 9/11.

McClinton is a uniquely American blueblood. Long may he reign.

 
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