Why Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown is a National Treasure.
Louisiana born, Texas bred Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown is a trans-genre, journeyman, multi-instrumentalist Renaissance man. Equally at home with Texas Blues, Cajun Zydeco, Western Swing, Rhythm and Blues, Country and Western, and Jazz, Brown spread his influence around generously. In this respect, one could see him as a rural Ray Charles. Brown is every bit the National Treasure that Charles is for no other reason than he, like Charles, possesses a fearlessly inquisitive interest in American Music. The 77-year old Brown has made a career out of defining and redefining all of America’s indigenous music. The late 1990s saw the release of two exceptional big band recordings ( Gate Swings, Verve 537617, 1997 and American Music, Texas Style, Verve 547536, 1999). These recordings recalled his excellent release on Rounder, Texas Swing (Rounder, 11527, 1988). These recordings are stocked full of jump blues and big band swing. Back to Bogalusa is a considerable departure from that genre. On this new recording, Brown studies the music of the Louisiana region, with a big nod toward Muscle Shoals Alabama and Memphis Tennessee.
Brown offers a mixed bag of music that has one thing in common— it is swampy. Sonny Landreth is on hand to provide his humid slide guitar playing to four of the cuts, including a wonderfully idiosyncratic version of Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken". Brown trades eights with the slide guitar master with his trademark, Basie-influenced sparseness. A note on Gate's guitar playing: he has never sounded better. His playing is, whether solo or obbligato, perfectly chosen and executed. His performance displays great craftsmanship and humor. Brown covers two songs by New Orleans R&B legend Bobby Charles ("It All Comes Back" and "Why are People Like That") which both showcase his guitar style. Zydeco is never far away and is found here in "Breaux Bridge Rag" and "Louisian'" with Zachary Richard on accordion (and Gate on violin). Just when you think there is no big band stuff, "Going Back to Louisiana" bursts out of nowhere with large charts. Landreth shows up again with his slide guitar and Mike Loudermilk tears off a perfect country solo.
Not all is perfect. "Bogalusa Boogieman" and "Dangerous Critter" are silly. But, "the instrumentals "Grape Jelly" and "Slap It" are sublime. The production might be a bit too slick for Brown's homespun talent, but this disc rocks nevertheless.
Personnel: Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown: Vocals, Guitar, Violin; Harold Floyd, David Hyde: Bass; Joe Krown: Keyboards; David Peters: Drums; Mike Loudermilk, Sonny Landreth: Guitars; Zachary Richard: Accordion; Eric Demmer, Brent Rose: Saxophones; Brian O'Neill: Trombone