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Timeless by Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

When they (you know, them) speak of "last of their kind"-type performers, one of the artists they'll be talking about (if "they" have any brains) is Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Though his albums are filed in stores' "Blues" sections and blues is a huge part of Brown's musical personality, he doesn't stop with the blues. In fact, few other performers in the history of American music -- Ray Charles, Doug Sahm, Bobby Darin are a few -- cover as much stylistic ground (and cover it well) as the Gateman: blues, jazz, jump blues, big band swing, country and Cajun music, and if you listen to his 40s/50s sides, he even anticipated some of the "noisy" aspects of rock & roll with his crackling, dissonant guitar. He was the only blues performer to appear on the Hee Haw TV show and he made a great, little-known album with country singer/guitarist Roy Clark (Makin' Music). Brown plays great (electric) guitar, as much like T-Bone Walker as Charlie Christian as Carl Perkins, and his fiddle playing is pretty swell too. Timeless is the Gate with no "name" guest stars, just a sharp, versatile band, joyfully making their collective way through honky-tonk-style country ("Tennessee Blues") and bluesy Kansas City swing (Jay McShann's "Jumpin' The Blues"), as well as a combination of the two (the Duke's "Satin Doll"). The hands-down highlight is a killer version of the standard "Unchained Melody" which comes on cool, spacious/spacey, and mysterious, like a cross between Jimi Hendrix, Chet Atkins, and Loren Connors.... then, they take it to a tiki lounge in Jamaica or thereabouts. Alas, Gatemouth Brown's voice isn't what it used to be, having grown rather frayed with time -- perhaps that's why half of this set is instrumental. But OY, what instrumentals! And don't get me wrong, the vocal numbers aren't bad 'r' anything -- what he's lost of technique he makes up for with genial, well-seasoned soulfulness. Not the Gate at his very best -- but even OK Gatemouth Brown (and Timeless is LOTS better than OK) is often better than a lot of performers at the top of their game. Recommended.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
  • CD Title: Timeless
  • Genre: Blues
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: High Tone
  • Rating: Three Stars
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