Picks and Pans Review: Live from Austin

updated 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Delbert McClinton

What are some of the things you can do in four minutes? Run a world-class mile. Medium-boil an egg. Read a newspaper story. If you happen to be Delbert McClinton, you can pack the finest elements of R&B, country and good ol' Texas boogie into those same four minutes and produce a fireball of rock and roll.

McClinton, 48, has been lying low for close to a decade, but as his first release in nine years attests, there's no rust on this sleek singing machine. He is a gracious crowd pleaser, wailing on his harmonica or singing blues shuffles such as "Maybe Someday, Baby" and "B-Movie Boxcar Blues." McClinton sounds as sure of himself on a hot dish of disco-funk like Jeffrey Bowen, Eddie Hazel and Al Boyd's "Standing on Shaky Ground" as he does on a gospelish version of Otis Redding's "I've Got Dreams to Remember."

McClinton's 10-piece band fills out some of the more threadbare songs, but Delbert j doesn't let the show drag very often, singing I like the impassioned blues lover he is, a guy who cut his teeth on songs by Sonny Boy Williamson and Joe Turner. Anybody who I can take a naive ditty such as "You Are My Sunshine" and turn it into an R&B scorch-j er is one audacious performer. McClinton has found a home on the roots rock label Alligator, which suggests more is on the way from Hellraisin' Del. We'll be counting the j minutes. (Alligator)



Those whose appetite for the music of jazz pianist-singer Harry Connick Jr. was whetted by his appearance in When Harry Mel Sally...should consider this effusive, 75-minute tape a feast.

Shot at New York City's Bottom Line in September 1988, it is an ideal solo showcase for the prodigious ego and talents of the New Orleans-born musician, who was then 21.

His singing, on such standbys as "East of the Sun" and "Whispering Grass," is husky, hearty and inventive. Connick's piano playing has a fury to it, from the marching Erroil Garner left hand to an ability to improvise rhythms with the same dexterity that some musicians have when they improvise notes. Any given tune can go from meditative to bluesy to boogie-woogie to bat-out-of-hell tempo. Yet Connick maintains a steady attention to melody that keeps him from sounding as mechanical as the pyrotechnics might suggest.

Seeing Connick as he performs means having to put up with an unruly shock of hair that keeps falling in his face. It doesn't seem to bother him, but it's distracting to watch.

He's impressive, though, doing a couple of stand-up minutes to fill in while one of his piano pedals is repaired; he does a tap dance and an imitation of Sammy Davis Jr. singing "What Kind of Fool Am I," among other things. His energy and passion are engaging throughout. And once in a while a little smile crosses his face, as if he is especially pleased with the way he is playing, as well he might be. (V.I.E.W., $29.95; 800-843-9843)

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