Delbert McClinton

Love Rustler

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Delbert McClinton's final album for ABC, issued in 1977, came on the heels of momentum built up by two albums that gradually warmed him to critics and audiences alike. Love Rustler dared to take the fusion of virtually all the music McClinton had come up around working as a musician from the early '60s on. Chip Young and McClinton chose a slate of songs that were contemporary in their arrangement but retained the deep rootsiness of McClinton's established approach. The cast and crew were the same musicians who played on Genuine Cowhide. The title track is, for all intent practical purposes, a disco song, but one read through the lessons of hard soul and funk with a huge horn section kicking it over the top of the vocal. "Let Love Come Between Us," which had been a mid-level hit for Bootsy's Rubber Band, is given a more solid soul treatment here. Both these tracks are significant in that they offer a view into what is McClinton's focused record from his early periods. R&B, funk, and soul are the basis for virtually everything here. Even the country tunes, such as Jimmie Rodgers' "In the Jailhouse Now" or the prison chain gang song "No More Cane," are given this treatment. And while that may sound hideous to purists of traditional music, truth is, you'd never get McClinton anyway, so take your musical fascism somewhere else. "Under Suspicion" takes a groove sensibility from Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine" and turns it into snaky, overdriven groove 'n' roll. There's a read of Tony Joe White's "Hold on to Your Hiney" that's less swampy but way funkier. Horns punching up the fill between the lines and synthesizers kick the edges of the melody as popping bass and razor-wire guitars create the body. McClinton shoves White's humorous lyric over the line into the deeply sexual. It works despite some of the dated-sounding synth washes. Like its predecessor, McClinton wrote minimally for this recording, but it hardly matters; he makes all these songs his own anyway, and nowhere is this more evident than in the closer, "Turn on Your Lovelight," which is a stomping, Ray Charles soul-based arrangement with country edges in the backbeat and funked-up fat-belly bass. It goes on forever and one can feel the horns and McClinton's voice in the spine, right where they belong. Highly recommended.

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