Rising Son, Clay McClinton, plays The Handlebar
By James Shannon
February 21, 2006
When Clay McClinton's CD came across my desk, I knew I'd give it a listen if for no other reason than curiosity because his father Delbert McClinton has been a personal favorite for too many years to count. Being the son or daughter of a famous artist has one clear advantage, it can get you in the door. After that, it's up to the individual to rise or fall on his or her own artistic merits.
Maybe it helps that Clay's, Out of the Blue, is not a collection of techno-pop or light jazz or New Age melodies, but I can't get the damn thing out of my CD player. This blend of honky tonk, Delta blues and soulful rock will not be unfamiliar to fans of the roadhouse genre of music of which Delbert McClinton is a strong proponent, but it goes deeper than that. The songwriting stands out as well, making it easy to see Clay's stated influences of Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, J. J. Cale, and John Hiatt. But this is not some prettified studio creation, with every pore of the recording dripping with long nights on stage at various beer-drinking establishments, so much so you can almost hear the clinking of glasses. Almost.
Clay McClinton grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, learning to play guitar and harmonica from both his father and older brother, Monty. After playing in bands during his high school years, he took the plunge as a professional musician. While Delbert was always a respected music industry pro, he never enjoyed the huge financial success that would bring the exorbitant mansion-and-limo lifestyle but it beats chopping cotton or working at Sears. "I always thought, growing up around Dad, that playing music was the coolest thing," he says. "I never really thought about doing anything else. At the same time, I don't have to be in the spotlight to enjoy the creativity of music. If someone likes what I'm writing and wants to take it and record it their way, well, I've never understood why anybody wouldn't want that. I look forward to producing other artists as well."
The next stop on his career path took Clay to the unlikely outpost of Flagstaff, Arizona, where he played with The Blues Project, a Texas stomp and southern blues outfit, and an acoustic blues/ bluegrass/folk band called Second Harvest. Those influences still run strong through his music, and hundreds of hours on stage didn't hurt either. A couple of years ago, Clay moved to Nashville to take his career to the next level. No longer a kid at 29, he was ready to hone his writing and production skills. The results are on display in Out of the Blue. Delbert's on the record as a co-writer on a song or two, and you'll have a chance to say hey to him on Friday, March 31 when he rolls into the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium.
But Delbert's boy is the real deal. Check out the Clay McClinton Band when they play The Handlebar in Greenville on Friday, March 3 with special guests Moxie's Moonlight Drive. The show starts at 9 pm.