Delbert McClinton with Special Guest Bonnie Bishop Presented by WMOT Roots Radio - 7/24/20Friday, July 24 2020 6:00pm Doors / 8:00pm Start
Delbert McClinton with Special Guest Bonnie Bishop Presented by WMOT Roots Radio - 7/24/20
at City Winery Nashville
Tall, Dark, & Handsome (Thirty Tigers/Hot Shot Records), the follow-up to Delbert McClinton’s 2016 Prick of the Litter, offers the easy balance of experience and adventure that has characterized his career for more than sixty years. With this, his 26th original album, Delbert celebrates the strength of his songwriting expertise, the energy of his live performances, and the drive of his touring band.
Fourteen new, original songs, all written or co-written by Delbert, gain momentum as they take the listener on a musical odyssey across the map, moving gracefully from big band to jazz to blues and swing. A dash of tango and a rough-edged, romantic ballad illustrate the diversity, depth, and range of Delbert as an artist, producer, songwriter and musician. Writing sessions with close friends and bandmates, Bob Britt, Kevin McKendree and Mike Joyce, and Dennis Wage, were inspiring.
From Joe Maher’s drum intro on “Mr. Smith,” this album captures the power of a live Delbert show. His trademark vocal style (Lyle Lovett says, “If we could all sing like we want to, we’d all sound like Delbert McClinton.”), is matched by Bob Britt’s guitar and Kevin McKendree’s piano and B-3 organ; with James Pennebaker on guitar; Glenn Worf on bass; and a rock- solid horn section of Dana Robbins (Tenor Sax), Quentin Ware (Trumpet); along with Jim Hoke (Tenor and Bari Sax) and Roy Agee (Trombone), for good measure.
Delbert is the definition of road warrior, having traveled the highways from coast to coast for each of those 62 years. The band on the album is his live band, and he admits, “I love this band. This is the best combination of musicians I have ever worked with.”
Rolling Stone calls him the “Godfather of Americana Music,” and rightfully so. Delbert’s musical style grew from his Texas roots. A little Tejano. A little Bob Wills. Throw in some Jimmy Reed harmonica. Add a splash of Big Joe Turner, and a big band horn section. He has been featured in media from the Los Angeles Times to the Washington Post. He has developed a sound that continues to serve him well, as evidenced by the three Grammy Awards for Contemporary Blues on his mantel.
Born in Lubbock, raised in Fort Worth, and now with homes in Austin, Nashville, and San Miguel de Allende, Delbert recognizes that he has been One Of The Fortunate Few. He grew up with a backstage pass to some of the most significant moments in American culture and music history.
In 2019, he received the fifth prestigious sidewalk star in Austin’s historic Paramount Theatre on Congress Avenue, an honor that he shares with only two other musicians (Lyle Lovett and Jerry Jeff Walker) and two celebrated actors (Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, of "Greater Tuna" fame). Also in 2019, The Nobelity Project, which has honored Dan Rather, Kris Kristofferson, and many more, awarded Delbert McClinton with the prestigious Feed the Peace Award, as a dedicated and generous supporter of many great causes throughout Texas and the nation.
From his early Fort Worth bands, the Straitjackets and the Rondels, to his current band, Self-Made Men + Dana, he continues to play sold-out concert halls and dance halls, historical theatres and music festivals across the nation. A major player in several waves of the national surge of Texas music popularity, Delbert has performed multiple
times on Saturday Night Live, has been featured on Austin City Limits seven times, as one of the most celebrated guests on the popular series; and appeared on many other national television shows.
His career truly defines Americana music: Delbert’s unique story of American history – with big horns, a strong rhythm section and a hot harmonica lead. To borrow from one of the songs on Tall, Dark & Handsome, whether he’s doing a live show or a recording, you can be assured that Delbert McClinton “don’t leave no chicken on the bone.”
By the time Bonnie Bishop released her oh-so-appropriately titled 2016 album, Ain’t Who I Was, she had already experienced several Cinderella-story career moments. First, her idol Bonnie Raitt recorded one of her songs, “Not Cause I Wanted To,” for her 2012 comeback album, Slipstream. Then New York Times critic Jon Pareles named it his Song of the Year, and Raitt’s album won a Grammy. Bishop also got to hear songs she’d penned sung by stars of the hit TV show “Nashville,” while Raitt covered another of her songs, “Undone” on 2016 ‘s Dig In Deep.
Since then, Bishop has learned to accept such experiences — not to mention touring Europe and Scandinavia, earning coveted performing spots on two Cayamo cruises and playing Willie Nelson’s annual Luck Reunion — as her reality, one that’s better than any fairytale.
But as her growing legions of fans may know, the fantastical story twist is that most of these events occurred after Bishop had decided to give up her music career and enroll in graduate school. That was when a mentor hooked her up with Dave Cobb, who was then becoming Nashville’s hottest producer (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile). Next thing she knew, she had turned the heartache of a divorce and a hail-Mary leap of faith into a soul-filled album; one that knocked critics out at Rolling Stone, Billboard, the New York Times, the Washington Post and just about everywhere else. The Houston Press declared her the “new queen of country soul” and No Depression practically shouted, “If we can go ahead and choose the BEST album of the year, it's clearly Bonnie Bishop’s.”
That gospel-infused album not only hit the upper reaches of the Americana music chart and reignited her career, it took it to levels she’d never expected, including those farflung adventures and recording with Paul Thorn.
But Bishop has been eager to do even more. This fall, she’ll release The Walk, produced by drummer Steve Jordan (John Mayer, Keith Richards, Robert Cray), a groove-based album that’s light years from Ain’t Who I Was. In the meantime, she’s also recorded new acoustic versions of several songs from previous albums and compiled her favorites into a collection titled House Sessions: Vol. 1 — so named because it actually was recorded in her house, on the grand piano her father left behind when her parents divorced.
While she was waiting to record with Jordan, Bishop and her piano relocated from Nashville to Fort Worth, Texas, into a place she describes as “this cool old house with hardwood floors and big, open windows.” She knew she wanted to record in that house, on that piano. But she didn’t want to use the tunes she was saving for Jordan; instead, she chose to plumb her past. Because she was unhappy with the sound of albums she’d released earlier in her career, Bishop had long ago pulled her 2002-2010 catalog from online services. Consequently, many of her newer fans have never heard those releases. But those who have been listening since her Soft To The Touch days often request her older songs at shows, making it clear they were worth presenting again.
But another emotional connection besides the piano was involved as well.
“There’s something about leaving Nashville and coming home to Texas that made me want to embrace that part of my past,” Bishop reveals. “Maybe that’s part of maturing as an artist; I can celebrate the whole journey now.” Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar and keys, she wound up with nine tracks, three of which had never been recorded. The songs are augmented by just a few other instruments, including upright bass and electric guitar by Fort Worth talents Aden Bubeck and Ryan Tharp, respectively.
“In these stripped-down versions,” Bishop says, “you can really hear the sound of this old house and my progression as a writer. I called it House Sessions: Vol. I because I loved making it so much, I’m already planning to let fans suggest other old songs they want me to go back and record.”
Among the tracks she included is the title song from her 2012 album, Free. “That album felt like my first real piece of artistry,” Bishop confesses. "Until then, I felt like I was trying to evoke a sound instead of creating my own.”
With Free, Bishop had finally found her voice — and laid the foundation on which she and Cobb would build Ain’t Who I Was.
And now Bishop is building again. Though she’s not ready to reveal too many details about The Walk, she mentions, “The songs are not as finite as my older recordings. It’s much more about the music; the jam. The first song is 7 minutes and 36 seconds long. I also made no effort whatsoever to make a radio single.”
She tossed other industry norms aside, too, intentionally crafting an album meant to be experienced on vinyl, one side at a time. “I think these are the best songs I’ve ever written,” she says. “They’re very deep, very much about the struggle as a human being to continue to evolve and keep moving forward, in our personal journeys and in the collective sense. As long as the sun comes up, we have to keep going forward.”
Bishop asked Jordan to produce because she knew he’d create rhythms to keep the music moving, and make it fun to perform and hear — without requiring the storytelling setups singer-songwriters typically deliver.
“I’ll always be Bonnie Bishop the songwriter,” she says. “But I also just want to get up and sing and dance sometimes and not have to read my journal out loud.”
Just a few years ago, Bishop thought she was ready to abandon music. Now she wants to make as much of it as possible, to share her gift however she can. One manifestation is her work with SongwritingWith:Soldiers, which helps soldiers, war veterans and their families express their experiences through the healing power of song. Bishop recently had the honor of performing several of these songs at the 2019 Congressional Medal of Honor gala in New York.
“I’m just gonna flood the world with music this year,” she declares. “And I don’t care whether anybody thinks that’s a bad idea. Who knows what next year will bring? I want to give all the music I’ve got as long as I’m here.”
No, Bonnie Bishop ain’t who she was. She’s stronger, deeper, more soulful and more sure of herself — and so ready to take this thrill ride of a life from The Walk to wherever it may lead. It’s already been one helluva trip. And it’s getting better all the time.