Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
packs a 13-track wallop in American Music, Texas Style, featuring
a big band sound with dramatic, often blistering horn arrangements crafted
by Wardell Quezergue —"the Creole Beethoven" — and interpreted
by an all-star cast which includes Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Wessel
Anderson (from the Wynton Marsalis band) on alto sax, and New Orleans
tenor men Tony Dagradi and Eric Traub.
The big band meets the blues as
the album, Gate’s first under the newly-revived Blue Thumb imprint,
opens with Eddie Curtis’ "Rock
My Blues Away." Brown’s blues-drenched voice, guitar and fiddle
playing are heard to fine effect, clearly demonstrating why one buys
a Gatemouth Brown record in the first place. "Half Steppin’"
follows, a swinging blues instrumental with the horns creating a nice
variety of moods behind Brown’s expressive guitar and the soulful sounds
of organist Joe Krown.
Gate slows the pace with "Hootie
Blues," the Jay McShann composition which introduced a 21-year-old
Charlie Parker to the record-buying public back in 1941, and features
the cooking tenor saxophonists in tandem on a smoky "Front Burner."
"I’m Beginning to See the Light" is the first of three Duke
Ellington classics included in the set; Brown also pays homage to the
great composer in Duke’s 100th birthday year with "Things
Ain’t What They Used to Be" and "Don’t
Get Around Much Anymore,"
where the band mellows out a bit and the jazzy sax and guitar solos
are split by a smoldering Nicholas Payton trumpet solo that finally
bursts into open flame.
American Music, Texas Style
is crisp, clean and simply good fun. Like most things from Texas, though,
it may be a little bit too big for those who enjoy their blues stripped-down
and raw. But Gatemouth fans who have followed his 52-year recording
career in all its unorthodox glory are sure to find the new album irresistible.