WHO IS HE? The criminally underappreciated 78-year-old Texas blues icon who has gigged with everyone from Howlin’ Wolf to Lightnin’ Hopkins, been covered by Emmylou Harris and The Blues Brothers — and once gave some British pop singer named John Lennon a harmonica lesson.
WHAT IS THIS? The 26th studio album of his six-decade career, Tall, Dark & Handsome — which features his Self-Made Men band and sax player Dana Robbins — is a disc that not only highlights the impressive depth and breadth of his sound and style, but also showcases the veteran singer-songwriter at the height of his impressive powers.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Midway between a musical travelogue and a historical journey, the 14-song set of original fare covers the musical waterfront from gritty 12-bar roadhouse blues to jazzy horn-driven jump blues, zippy violin-laced speakeasy swing, south of the border Latin grooves, soulful ballads, New Orleans funk and more — all voiced with McClinton’s sandy Doug Sahm-meets-Randy Newman drawl and easy confidence.
WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? Every Shade Of Blues.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? The only way you can: With your foot tapping, your head nodding and a smile plastered on your mug.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Timeless, rootsy, real, honest, upbeat, warm, flowing, engaging, informal, approachable.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? It’s all killer and no filler — but standouts include the greasy If I Hock My Guitar, the south of the border Gone to Mexico, the jumpin’ Mr. Smith, the viperish No Chicken on the Bone and the funky A Fool Like Me.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘How is this guy not a household name?’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? The more pertinent question might be: How long can you go without listening to this?
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A TV SHOW, WHAT KIND OF SHOW WOULD IT BE? A fantastic PBS documentary about the history of the blues.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL? You don’t really want him to hock his guitar, do you?