Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men – Prick of the Litter
Hot Shot Records/Thirty Tigers
CD: 12 Songs, 38:44 Minutes
Styles: Jazz Ballads, Jazz-Influenced Blues
Never has there been a greater mismatch between a jazz album’s name and its content. With a moniker like Prick of the Litter, one might expect a CD full of growling guitar, four-letter words, and one or more songs about being a – well, the title. No such luck on Delbert McClinton’s latest, however. Most of its twelve tracks are mellow jazz influenced ballads, and the opener is what Ms. Wetnight would deem jazz-influenced blues. The style is far more Randy Newman than Robert Cray, and on the last song, “Rosy,” McClinton even sounds like him. In the blues world,
Delbert is sometimes a polarizing figure. He’s a household name due to winning multiple Grammys, and his talent is as self-evident as the “truths” in the Declaration of Independence. However, genre fans, you might not pick him if you were giving someone a crash course in pure blues masters. As for the CD, there’s a lot of glee, but not enough grit – enough hard edge or caffeine-like kick. If one is looking for suavity and romance, though, this would be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.
The album’s promotional materials reveal: “Prick of the Litter was recorded with the support of McClinton’s working band, Self-Made Men, who include Bob Britt (guitar), Kevin McKendree (keyboards), Mike Joyce (bass), Jack Bruno (drums) and Quentin Ware (trumpet). The chemistry of this group of musicians, the best band he’s ever had, according to McClinton, is on full display on this album. [It] was co-produced by McClinton, McKendree and Britt, who also jointly contributed to co-writing over half the new songs on the album.” As for McClinton himself, this native Texan happened to travel to England where he “headlined shows with Bruce Channel, with a little-known Liverpool band (The Beatles).” Before that, Delbert led the house bands for Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and others. He knows what these icons sound like, and their distinctive oeuvre, is not seen on McClinton’s newest.
The following song is witty and fits in perfectly with society’s health-conscious sensibilities:
Track 09: “Jones for You” – As a verb, “to jones” means “to crave,” as the noun form means “a craving” or “a fix”. The hero of this song is trying to give up all of his unhealthy vices, and is mostly succeeding: “I gave up meat. I just have salad. No swinging jazz – it’s only ballads. Nothing salty and nothing sweet. I skip it all, from milk to wheat. I got a trainer and a diet guy. Sprouts and protein shakes – that’s all I buy. I jog in the park all day. That’s what I do, while I still jones for you.” Quentin Ware’s slow, sultry trumpet and McKendree’s smoothie-creamy keyboards are definite highlights here.
The two other songs yours truly might recommend are “Neva” and “Bad Haircut. Prick of the Litter, for what it is – more of a jazz album that pure blues – is excellent.