AUSTIN, Texas — Raised on roadhouse blues, outlaw country and pure honky-tonk, Clay McClinton has melded those styles into a sound he likes to call Texas gumbo. On his fourth album, Bitin’ at the Bit (Red Chili Records; Feb. 18,
2014), the Fort Worth native delivers 12 perfectly seasoned tracks that showcase his range as a songwriter and performer.
This time out, McClinton pays homage to some of his influences, including longtime family friend Gary Nicholson, who produced the album. Working together for the first time, they recorded at the Grammy winner’s Nashville studio, Fearless Recording. They also co-wrote many of what McClinton calls his best songs yet. His dad, Delbert, also shares writing credit on “Stories We Can Tell,” a Stonesy rocker, and “Beer Joint” — the latter of which contains contributions by “Hey Baby” legend Bruce Channel. Father and son also trade vocals on Delbert’s “Victim of Life’s Circumstances,” the title track of his 1975 ABC Records debut.
On Bitin’ at the Bit, McClinton also honors Woody Guthrie and the late Stephen Bruton; he celebrates the former in the contemplative “Bound for Glory,” written with fellow Austin resident George Ensle, and the latter via his Tex-Mex take on “What a Little Love Can Do,” which Bruton and Nicholson wrote for the film “Crazy Heart.” The song was performed by star Jeff Bridges in the movie; McClinton says it’s just a coincidence that he also revisits a song heard in another Bridges flick, “The Big Lebowski.” That would be “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” penned by fellow Texan Mickey Newbury.
Nicholson and McClinton share writing credit with Tom Hambridge on “Sound of a Small Town,” a gentle lament, and “Hydrated,” a rollicking ode to indulgence that, like “Beer Joint,” carries a country heart — and guitar work by top Nashville picker Kenny Vaughan. On “Poison Love,” the 1951 Johnnie & Jack classic by Elmer Laird, McClinton enters Cajun territory, with accordion by Joel Guzman and fiddling by Larry Franklin.
“My style is just what feels good to me,” McClinton says. “I’ve never been into categorizing art, but I would say it falls somewhere between country and blues with a dash of Tejas and a side of jazz.”
McClinton’s musical foundations were formed during a childhood spent listening to Delbert and his talented friends; he’s since had the honor of sharing stages with several. McClinton’s memories are filled with experiences such as his recent New Year’s Eve mini-reunion with Delbert, half-sister Delaney and Nelson and family at Austin’s ACL Live at the Moody Theater.
“Dad used to open for Willie all the time in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and it was normal for all of us kids to be running around backstage,” McClinton says. “It was like a big family of friends — and still is.”
Both musical icons gave their kids the best training any musician could have, though they also made sure their offspring earned that shared stage time. And McClinton has worked hard to cultivate his own sound and style. He’s done it so well, Delbert chose to include his son’s “Oughta Know” on Blind, Crippled and Crazy, his 2013 reunion album with Glen Clark. Austin Chronicle music editor Raoul Hernandez recently labeled the song “my new favorite.”
With a new Burnside Distribution deal and touring to both coasts and beyond, McClinton looks forward to serving up his Texas gumbo with fans everywhere.
Clay McClinton tour dates include:
Feb. 1 – Gruene Hall, New Braunfels, Texas
Feb. 8 – Luckenbach Dancehall, Luckenbach Texas
Feb. 14 – Anderson Fair, Houston (acoustic)
Feb. 19 – Superfly’s Lone Star Music Emporium, San Marcos, Texas *
Feb. 20 – Cactus Café, Austin *
Feb. 26 – The Blue Light Live, Lubbock, Texas *
Feb. 27 – Golden Light Cantina, Amarillo, Texas *
Feb. 28 – Cheatham Street Warehouse, San Marcos *
March 1 – Mercer Street Dance Hall, Dripping Springs, Texas *
March 8 – Magnolia Motor Lounge, Fort Worth *
March 9 & 10 – The Lodge at Red River, Red River, N.M.
March 12 – Hollidays Bar & Grill, Meeker, Colo.
March 13 – Tailgate Tavern & Grill, Parker, Colo.
March 14 – Little Bear Saloon, Evergreen, Colo. *
March 15 – KTAOS Solar Bar, Taos, N.M. *
March 22 – The Bugle Boy, LaGrange, Texas *
March 28 – The House of FiFi DuBois, San Angelo, Texas *
March 29 – Outlaws & Legends Festival, Abilene, Texas
April 3 – Mercury Lounge, Tulsa, Okla. *
April 8 – Mercy Lounge, Nashville
April 9 – The Station Inn, Nashville *
April 20 – JVs, Falls Church, Va.
(* album release events)
Posted by: Sam Moore
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