Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
American Music, Texas Style
Blue Thumb 314 547 536-2

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 ó"the Creole Beethoven" ó 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, Gateís first under the newly-revived Blue Thumb imprint, opens with Eddie Curtisí "Rock My Blues Away." Brownís 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 Steppiní" follows, a swinging blues instrumental with the horns creating a nice variety of moods behind Brownís 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." "Iím 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 Dukeís 100th birthday year with "Things Ainít What They Used to Be" and "Donít 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.

óBen Hulette


©2000 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA


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