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Presented by The Blues Foundation
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown|
Review Date: October 2007
by John Taylor
Gate’s always been eclectic, doggedly determined to pursue a singular musical vision that puts a distinct stamp on just about every form of American roots music. With “Timeless,” though, his eclecticism seems almost wilful. Ever the curmudgeon, it’s as though he’s challenging listeners to keep up. But while the project’s lack of coherence would doom just about any other artist - who else but Gatemouth Brown could slide from a spooky, almost ethereal intro to “Unchained Melody” (yes, the old Righteous Brothers hit) reminiscent of Van Morrison and turn it into a bright, bouncy calypso tune – “Timeless” succeeds thanks to the sheer force of Gate’s personality.
Few other artists would even think of throwing lightly swinging jazz (Ellington’s “Satin Doll”) into a program that also includes cornpone honky-tonk (Bobby Charles’ “Tennessee Blues” and a live take of his concert staple, Hoyt Garrick’s “Dark End Of The Hallway”). Who else would punctuate the deep blues of “For Now So Long” or “The Drifter” with fiddle solos?
Gate, of course, does it all in his own instantly recognizable style, which means there are a few lows among the disc’s many highs. Surprisingly spry at eighty, he still swings furiously on both the big-band jazz of “Soft Wind” and the positively ebullient “Jumpin’ The Blues.” But his spoken intro to “The Drifter” is simply bizarre, and his voice, never terribly supple at the best of times, can best be described as gruff.
Still, he’s lost none of his authority, and as quirky as “Timeless” is it may well prove a fitting swan song – Gate’s been diagnosed with and is battling cancer. Here’s hoping he’s still possessed of the fierce and independent spirit that’s always infused his music, and that we’ll have the pleasure of many more from a true American icon.
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