GATEMOUTH has a new a recording out on a new record label (this is a re-issue of a previous recording). Sugar Hill is better known for its country or alt/ country artists rather than a blues artist. In his own words though "I ain't no Bluseman." Clarence has always been pushing his boundaries or rather the definition of the blues and with "Blackjack" he has decided to use the blues' cousin, country. The little blurb on the back cover by John D. Loudermilk said it best "At last, working man's music from both sides of the tracks has come together and has the most American artist yet -"Gatemouth Brown."
This is mostly an instrumental album blending blues guitar, country steel slide, fiddle, piano, harmonica and flute. Yep, the flute. Gatemouth himself plays guitar, fiddle, viola, mandola, harmonica, and vocals. Along with fellow musicians Leon Medica on bass, Jeff Pollard & Freddy Wahl on guitars, Rod Roddy on piano, Bobby Campo on trumpet, flugel horn & flute, David Peters on drums and Don Buzzard playing pedal steel guitar and electric dobro the album meshes out nicely.
As I said mostly instrumental with the exception of a couple of songs. The lead off track "Here I Am" penned by Clarence is a great blues song. From there "Tippin' In" & "Song for Renee" come through as two sides of a coin. One a bluesy country feel the other a country blues tune. Not until the seventh song in do we get to hear the vocals of Mr. Brown on a tune called "Chickenshift." From the title you can probably guess that there is a lot of chicken pickin' guitar in it. The very next song, the title track, "Blackjack" has a little bit of buried vocals at the end of the song, but that's the last we hear from the voice of Gatemouth. The album finishes off with four more instrumentals all covers except the traditional arranged by Gatemouth "Up Jumped the Devil."
With the twelve songs, half penned by Clarence, and the great interplay between the musicians this album is a well rounded, great recording. I, for one, hope that Clarence follows this one up with a similar record but knowing Gatemouth Brown he'll probably come back with an acid jazz trip hop ensemble.
This CD can be found at www.sugarhillrecords.com or by writing for a free catalog to Sugar Hill Records, Inc.
P.O. Box 55300
Durham, NC 27717-5300
This review is copyright © 1999 by Kevin Doyle, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.