It's easy to take Delbert McClinton for granted, but that's largely because after spending more than four decades mixing up blues, honky-tonk country, R&B, and rock 'n' roll, he makes it all sound easy. Listening to Cost Of Living, one can catch a whiff of everyone from Chuck Berry to Bobby "Blue" Bland (and many more) in the roadhouse rockers and blues ballads written by McClinton and a variety of collaborators (including Al Anderson and Gary Nicholson, who co-produced the disc with McClinton). And the best of McClinton's songs would sound right at home on a mix tape of his blue-chip influences.
"The Part I Like Best" is a succinct (2 minutes, 17 seconds) example of McClinton's musical charms, his agile voice skipping atop the beat as he paints a pithy picture of a lover who's as "juicy as a homegrown tomato." He's equally lighthearted playing the romantic hero in the jumpy "Hammerhead Stew", but on "Down Into Mexico", which carries a distant echo of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man", his sweetie deals him a very bad hand. That's OK, because McClinton's a master of the brokenhearted ballad, as evidenced by the superior lament, "Your Memory, Me, And The Blues".
It takes a sturdy soul to age gracefully in the music world, but McClinton, who'll turn 65 in November, has turned the trick by continuing to mine and refine the soulful music that excited him as a young man. He's not concerned about reinventing the wheel; instead, he's focused on putting on a good show. McClinton's renowned road band anchors the instrumental action on Cost Of Living, and that's always the best way to bring the roadhouse to the recording.
On "Midnight Communion", a "ragtag congregation is gathered at the bar...while the jukebox in the corner plays the blues." Trust McClinton to know where to find some good music.