Delbert McClinton

Genuine Cowhide

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Issued in 1976, Delbert McClinton's second genre-busting date for ABC proved to be more outrageous, more out of step with the times -- as in far ahead -- than Victim of Life's Circumstances. On his debut for the label, McClinton wrote all of his own material, showcasing his mastery of crossing hard country, rock, soul, R&B, and blues and expressing them all with emotional authenticity, musical expertise, and raw power. On Genuine Cowhide, McClinton shifted gears and, with a smaller group of Nashville's finest, cut a set largely made up of covers. But these were not just any covers; they were James Brown's "Please, Please, Please," Memphis Curtis' nugget "Lovely Dovey," Fats Domino's "Blue Monday," Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me," Jesse Stone's "Lipstick, Powder and Paint," and a couple of tunes by Lieber and Stoller such as Leonard Lee's "Let the Good Times Roll," Washington and Robie's "Pledging My Love," and a couple of originals. In 1976, this took balls -- trying to get on the charts with a collection of tunes that had been basically regarded as so classic they should never have been touched (Brown's, Domino's, and Memphis Curtis') or were considered so hopelessly out of date no one cared to remember them if they could. To put your own songs on an album of classics was nearly unheard of. Who cares? This album is steeped harder in blues and R&B than it is country. It moves, rattles, rolls, snakes, and funks in dirty, deep, raw emotion and good-time raucousness. The covers of "Please, Please, Please" and "Pleadging My Love" are astonishing in their raw-boned honesty and lack of artifice. Stone's doo wop tune has been revamped into a smoking R&B behind the beat groover, and the Lieber/Stoller tunes -- "One Kiss Led to Another" and "My Baby Comes to Me" -- have been given the Memphis treatment with funky Rhodes pianos and horns driving the tunes. McClinton's "Special Love Song" is as naked as it gets, full-on, down-on-one-knee woman worship. The only complaint is that the production techniques Chip Young used sound a bit dated in the 21st century, but it's hardly a problem for more than a minute or two. The other is that McClinton's lover song should have closed the set instead of "Let the Good Times Roll," to go out on that deep soul note, but that's the quibble of a writer who has never produced an album. Genuine Cowhide is as fine a place as any to discover McClinton if you've been living under a rock for the past three decades.