Delbert McClinton

Delbert McClinton's new album features a cast of wild honky-tonk women. There's the nameless hell-raiser who lives it up while the narrator is "Livin' It Down." There's Loretta, who plays with the narrator's mind on "I Gotta Get It Worked On." Then there's the eponymous woman who leaves her man, taking all her clothes except for his favorite red dress on "When Rita Leaves."

As McClinton opines, "Sometimes you get the honey, sometimes you get the sting." It's good to know that in real life, McClinton is doing well. The longtime Texas blues-rocker, who now calls Nashville home, has a new label; his last one, Rising Tide, went belly up in 1997, five months after the release of the ironically titled One of the Fortunate Few. The album sold about 300,000 copies, but McClinton remained unsigned for nearly three years until he was picked up by New West, which has released Nothing Personal.

One of the greatest roadhouse rockers, McClinton doesn't break any new ground here. He simply mixes club-friendly roots-rock numbers with a few blues and country tunes -- the kind of stuff you'd hear in a place like Billy Bob's in Fort Worth.

McClinton's punchy lyrics, delivered in his signature rasp, offer nothing profound. No redemption or spiritual message. Just mature thoughts about love, sex and relationships between men and women. "It's all right to let your good times roll / But try to exercise a little self-control" is the deepest "message" McClinton delivers. But that's fine. At a time when music is full of angst, rage and posturing, it's nice to see a veteran release a gutsy CD of more intimate proportions. If McClinton sounds content on the finale, "Watchin' the Rain" ("It's a crime to spend your time trying to comply / When the best you're gonna get if you get lucky / is just to get by"), that's because he's paid his dues. He's simply doing what he's been doing for three decades: delivering some of the best Saturday-night music in Texas.

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Aaron Howard