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McClinton's True Blue, to Musicians and Music

November 30, 2001|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Delbert McClinton is generous with his time. At the Roxy on Wednesday, the Texas blues veteran frequently stepped back from the spotlight as his six sidemen dived into one fiery solo after another. That often made the singer less a band frontman than a gracious party host.

But if the 90-minute concert was almost more like the Delbert McClinton Revue, with the singer even leaving the stage for two songs, somehow the night never got bogged down in aimless showboating. Even the lengthiest solos stayed true to the songs, with saxman Don Wise and pianist Kevin McKendree adding layers of excitement and regret to the old blues patterns.

McClinton himself often pulled out his harmonica for some torrid playing. As a host, he was loose and serious, his raspy vocals full of romantic despair and wry acceptance. With a husky breathlessness, he sang with a wink, "She's in a hotel/Where? She won't tell."

All the material was well-chosen, starting with a bluesy, booming take on Al Green's "Take Me to the River." But it was less reflective of his fine new album, "Nothing Personal," which has moments of quieter reflection amid the roadhouse blues songs.

McClinton did begin to wind things down with a few of those wounded ballads shortly before the encore, singing the Latin-flavored "When Rita Leaves." These moments weren't as loud or danceable as the rest of the show, but they cut deeper, revealing a singer equally generous with his affections.

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