"Cost of Living"

New West

Delbert McClinton's voice has the grainy texture and booming blast of a tenor saxophone, but there are many singers like that. What makes McClinton distinctive is the way he uses his voice like a drum. Again and again on his new album, "Cost of Living," he spits out a percussive syllable right on the beat, lending a syncopated snap to the rhythm. Even the handful of slow songs benefit from a firm, story-shaping beat that comes as much from his voice as from the terrific band behind him.

All but one of the 13 tunes were penned by McClinton with such co-writers as his co-producer, Gary Nicholson; his keyboardist, Kevin McKendree; ex-NRBQ guitarist Al Anderson; Amazing Rhythm Aces singer Russell Smith; and Susan Tedeschi producer Tom Hambridge. The songs abound in catchy melodies and clever lines, but it's their unfaltering grooves -- whether it's the New Orleans second line of "One of the Fortunate Few," the bluesy boogie of "Right to Be Wrong" or the country shuffle of "I Had a Real Good Time" -- that distinguish this disc from the roots-rock pack.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Monday at the Birchmere.