VerveOne of the founding fathers of modern blues, Gatemouth came from a musical family and grew up playing cajun and country as well as blues. He was discovered at Don Robey’s Peacock Club in Houston, where he took the stage filling for an ailing T-Bone Walker. Initially recording for Aladdin Records, he became a mainstay of Robey’s Peacock label. Only B.B. King exerts a comparable influence on modern blues guitar. Gatemouth’s dirtier, more emphatic attack (based on T-Bone’s jazzy approach) was the direct influence on such Gulf Coast, West Coast and Texas guitarists as Guitar Slim, Johnny Copeland, Earl King, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
His new album, The Man, has the eclecticism of his ‘80s sets on Rounder Records - opening with Bill Doggett’s Honky Tonk, including explorations in blues and jazz with a funky remaking of Louis Jordan’s calypso blues, Early in the Morning,and hitting nice late-night blues grooves with You Can Disagree and Someday My Luck Will Change. Cajun accordionist Joel Sonnier joins for an instrumental version of Big Mamou (with Gatemouth on viola), and Jambalaya, while Gatemouth sings a straightforward country lament, You Can Disagree while closing with a country breakdown, Up Jumped the Devil.
Gatemouth’s slightly crusty vocals are delivered in a relaxed fashion without any artifice, and his guitar and viola and fiddle are played with considerable skill and occasional sense of drama as on his melodramatic instrumental reading of Unchained Melody, with his very deliberate phrasing and changes in tempo. His regular band is augmented by rhythm guitar and a larger horn section, which do occasionally come across as a bit heavy handed. To use a term Gatemouth Brown himself prefers, The Man is a solidly constructed album of “Texas Swing”.
This review originally appeared in the March 1995 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 199). I received my review copy from a publicist, the record company or the publication. The CD may be out of print but may not be hard to find used or as a download. Here Gatemouth performs "Up Jumped the Devil."