Clay McClinton Returns With Bitin at the Bit, Featuring Guthrie Trapp
By Lawrence Specker
February 11, 2014
Coastal fans of Clay McClinton – son of Delbert McClinton and a prodigious champion of dusty roadhouse rock in his own right – have had to wait a while for new music. But the wait is just about over.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, McClinton releases "Bitin' at the Bit," his first studio album since 2010's "Livin’ Out Loud." His fans will find a lot to like: It's a confident, polished collection of songs that finds the younger McClinton advancing his personal style. Better yet, it includes contributions from Guthrie Trapp, a Baldwin County guitar prodigy who grew up to be a Nashville session ace.
"It's an amazing story, actually," McClinton said of the album's creation. He gambled on a Kickstarter.com campaign to help fund the project, and fans responded enthusiastically. "It was a success in all ways," McClinton said. "I was humbled by the whole experience. We raised $43,000."
That made a lot of good things possible. McClinton was able to enlist the professional services of Grammy winner Gary Nicholson as co-writer and producer; to bring in the musicians he wanted; and to have a decent budget for promotion. Among the cast of musicians was accordionist Joel Guzman, who played a big role in adding "kind of a Southwest Tex-Mex feel" to the proceedings.
Trapp appears on only two tracks, but they are significant ones: The first is a cover of McClinton senior's "Victim of Life's Circumstances," in which Delbert joins his son on vocals, with Trapp playing lead electric and acoustic guitar. The second is "What a Little Love Can Do," a breezy ballad on which he plays lead.
"He's just an amazing guitar player, and he just ripped it up," McClinton said of Trapp's work.
“I just met him like maybe two years ago, he was playing with Dad," he said. "He's just one of those Nashville spit- and-polish pickers who go into the studio and say 'What do you need?' He's a friend of Gary's, and Gary was like, 'Oh, he's just going to be perfect on this.' And he was." "And a great guy, just a sweetheart guy," McClinton said.
That hint of Tex-Mex flavor does much to make "Bitin' at the Bit" the treat that it is, because it shows the younger McClinton going his own way with his familial heritage. Delbert McClinton's music has long blended country, blues and rock into a distinctive roadhouse boogie. Clay McClinton is finding his own road through the same territory.
"I'm always trying to hone my own style, and who I am, and how I want to be perceived," he said. "And it feels at home. I'm kind of like Dad in that I pull from a bunch of different genres, and whatever feels good to me is what I do."
That said, he made the decision to push his comfort zone. "What a Little Love Can Do" is a song that forced him to "sing a little bit outside my box," he said. And the Woody Guthrie tribute "Bound for Glory," an anthemic Dust Bowl ballad that follows, closes with the promise of more good things to come: Clay McClinton is a singer-songwriter who's getting bigger ideas, and the skills to pull them off.
McClinton said he already has enough material in hand for another album, but first up comes a year of serious touring. "We're going to be all over," he said.
The road will bring him to The Blues Tavern in Mobile on April 13, a Sunday, for a show billed as the Alabama CD release party. McClinton said he's eager to get back to a venue where he's found a warm welcome in the past.
"This is the best band I've had since I can remember," he said. "Great musicians, great guys, and we're just ready to put on a great show."