Delbert McClinton

Friday, Dec. 28; Mississippi Nights

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Delbert McClinton is one of those guys who always seem to hover just below the radar of public consciousness. That's a shame, because he's a great songwriter, one whose catalog is littered with little-known gems -- and, unlike many of his contemporaries, his recent records, including the latest, Nothing Personal, are nearly as impressive as his earlier work. Swinging easily from bluesy balladry to barnstorming rockers to country weepers, McClinton covers much the same territory as roots artists such as Bonnie Raitt, but he does so without all the arena-rock trappings. McClinton, a native Texan, often infuses his music with a south-of-the-border sensibility, but he avoids the standard Tex-Mex tricks.

McClinton's live shows are a forum for the singer to showcase many of his songs that are long out of print, but he also peppers his concerts with well-chosen cover versions of blues, soul and country standards and rarities. In addition to his solid songwriting and pleasantly weathered vocals, McClinton blows a mean harmonica, particularly in concert. He's no Little Walter, but he's no slouch, either. He even gave John Lennon some harp pointers before the Beatles recorded "Love Me Do." That should count for something.

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