Cost Of Living
There is a point in every cool music fan's journey that the realize, often to their horror, they have grown up. They catch themselves tapping their feet to a Steely Dan song at a chain restaurant, or grooving on a complicated thing playing on the PA at Mervyn's only to be dealt the crushing blow that its a Doobie Brothers song. You didn't mean to go from being a lightning bolt to being a square, but there you are, ready to be stacked up and warehoused with the rest of the squares. The stitching on your Punk Rock Merit badge has been fraying for a long time now, in fact you've been picking at it in stead of sewing it back on, so you can't be too surprised it fell off.
You could be like Emperor Xerxes of Persia and bullwhip the sea for sinking your gleaming armada, or you could pull a Kate Winslet from Titanic and hold onto that piece of wreckage, watching your Leonardo DiCaprio Cool Music Taste sink to the icy depths, much like his own career has done. Your choice. Me? I opt to tack my sails with the winds of change and enjoy the ride.
The artist that clued me into my advancing age was Delbert McClinton. I was a DJ at a jazz/blues AM station, doing an ultra-hip radio show of thrift store exotica at the time. During a protracted stretch of Les Baxter orchestration, I would pop in whatever blues promo cd's that were sitting in the little auxiliary studio I used, because truth be told, I was bored shitless by the whole space age bachelor pad thing, and one of those promos was a Delbert CD. Ol' Del has a bunch of New Orleans in his musical woodpile, his take on rootsy blues rock burbles with infectious herky-jerky second line funk. His latest CD Cost of Living continues that style, swinging its bony ass from the get go on "One of the Fortunate Few"
Well, for one thing, There's a whole lot of guys
That would've liked to been in my shoes
But the upkeep on a woman like that
Give an old poor boy the blues
Still the pleasure was worth the pain
Of everything she put me through
And I consider myself on of the fortunate few
with a rattle of piano and grindy tube amp blues distortion awesome shuffle. Delbert's take on this tried and true formula is intoxicating on record, which is a feat. Usually this stuff goes well live, but falls flat on disc. But his strut and funk are in full effect on soulful blues night blasters like "Right to Be Wrong" and the sax driven "Hammerhead Stew."
The key element in any blues act is the ability to throw down a slow jam, so you can pull that gal you've been throwing around the floor close, hoping she doesn't burn you with her cigarette in the process. McCinton and his band dish up the goods on slow burners like "Your Memory, Me and the Blues" and "Kiss her Once for Me." The best track on this thing, though is "Dead Wrong" where the band gets a full head of Exile- era Stones steam to back up Del's barking rant about a hard woman. To me this is where he shines, mustering up maelstrom that only a man of his experience can do with that much aplomb.
My only complaint is that he doesn't rise to that degree more on the record, but that's the impatient cool kid in me wanting to rail against the slow fiddle numbers like "Kiss Her Once For Me" and the Hank Williams meets Dr. John squeezins funk of "I Had a Real Good Time" and really there is no point. There will be miles of White Stripes and Bravery's and who the fuck else ever rehashing "Street Fighting Man" to the point of emulsification, and we will see corny but sincere figures like Delbert two-stepping through the rubble and you are lying to yourself if you don't want to join in, just a little bit.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com