For the record: New releases this week

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Records are rated on a scale of one (awful) to four (classic) stars:


DELBERT & GLEN 'Blind, Crippled & Crazy' (New West)

4 stars = Outstanding
Ratings explained

Forty years ago, vocalist and harmonica great Delbert McClinton performed and recorded with singer-keyboard player Glen Clark, a fellow Texan, as Delbert & Glen. Their two albums, issued in 1972 and '73, melded rock, country and blues in ways anticipating Mr. McClinton's later work. While both albums were ignored at the time, among those paying attention were John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, who added "B-Movie Box Car Blues" from the first Delbert & Glen album to the Blues Brothers' repertoire.

While Mr. McClinton gained fame in the '70s as a popular blues-roots act and later Grammy winner, Mr. Clark wrote songs, played keyboard onstage with Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson and worked with actor Jim Belushi's blues band. Mr. Clark reunited with his '70s partner on one of Mr. McClinton's annual Sandy Beach cruises.

It's no surprise that musically they pick up where they left off while not ignoring the passage of time in their original tunes. The loose irreverent "Been Around a Long Time" sets a tone for the album and continues on "World of Hurt," "Somebody to Love You" and the confessional "More and More, Less and Less," sung by Mr. Clark. "Oughta Know" features guitar from Anson Funderburgh.

Hot as the music is, particularly on the sardonic "Peace in the Valley" (not the gospel standard), maturity dominates the message of the rollicking, New Orleans-flavored "Good As I Feel Today." Similar sentiments surface on the swampy "Sure Feels Good," blending cockiness and wisdom. By skillfully melding past and present, the pair create a vibrant reunion reflecting good times and earthy integrity.

-- Rich Kienzle, for the Post-Gazette


DARIUS RUCKER 'True Believers' (Capitol Nashville)

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained

Grand Ole Opry member Darius Rucker's third country effort continues what he began on the previous two, "Learn to Live" and "Charleston SC, 1966." He's co-written 10 of the 12 numbers, but the results are often uneven. Vocally, Mr. Rucker is on point, and producer Frank Rogers does an excellent job. The problem lies with bland, generic material.

The title song, the album's first single, is pure run of the mill, as is "Miss You," one of three tunes Mr. Rucker and Mr. Rogers co-wrote. "Lie to Me" and the beach song "Lost in You" are similarly nondescript. Mr. Rucker's strong performance of "Love Without You" didn't require backup vocals by wanna-be country singer Sheryl Crow.

All the above pale next to superior performances like "Radio," a clever memory of an era when car radios, not iPods or CD players, ruled entertainment while traveling. "Take Me Home," a powerful celebration of beloved Southern images and icons, shines with a first-rate vocal, lyric and arrangement. The aggressive "Heartbreak Road" is bracing on every level. Likewise, his engaging take on of "Leavin' the Light On" complements the lyrics' sense of contentment.

The showcase, however, is his current single version of the Old Crow Medicine Show favorite "Wagon Wheel," which made it to No. 1 with good reason. As most know, part of it was written decades ago by Bob Dylan. Old Crow Medicine Show member Ketch Secor completed it, and Mr. Rucker makes this witty tale of travel-by-thumb his own.

His dynamic vocal skills and ability to fuse modern and traditional Nashville aren't the issue here. Mr. Rucker's talents deserve more material of the caliber of "Wagon Wheel," "Heartbreak Road" and "Leavin' the Light On" next time out.

-- Rich Kienzle, for the Post-Gazette



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