McClinton's ebullience is undeniable on Room to Breathe, yet a sense of going through the paces permeates the project. Chord progressions are predictable; this is expected, of course, when playing the blues, as McClinton does frequently here, but with the exception of the lovely ballad "Don't Want to Love You," not much compositional substance is evident. Too often, he compensates by leading his band through overly exuberant performances, but on cuts like "Money Honey," this only creates an impression of the artist as a kind of Cowtown Tom Jones. He seems as well to strain for his lyrics; lines like "You love a man that don't love you/You musta got a lot of abuse" reflect both a lenient rhyme scheme and an overly topical vernacular for the idiom. One track, "Lone Star Blues," stands out for its splashy presentation; over a clip-clop beat that might have been more effective if slightly slowed down, an eye-crossing assembly of Americana superstars gathers to sing on each chorus. Outside of Will the Circle Be Unbroken, this much talent has rarely been herded into one studio, yet all that makes each guest distinct gets buried into a single harmonized holler. This feeling of being hurried, and of misplaced creative energy, is what Room to Breathe leaves behind. - Robert L. Doerschuk

CD-Room to Breathe (2002)