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Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown: Black Jack

Multi-instrumentalist, multi-directional genius Clarence Gatemouth Brown flaunts his natural gifts on Blackjack (Sugar Hill 3891; 44:26). The jazziest of all the great, old school bluesman, Gatemouth fingerpicks his way through the instrumental “Tippin’ In” with typical elan and burns a blue streak on two fiercely swinging uptempo jump blues workouts-“Pressure Cooker,” title track from a great mid-’80s album on Alligator, and Billy Butler’s “Honey Boy.” Pedal steel ace Don Buzard (the album is dedicated to his memory) turns heads on those three instrumental tracks with his idiosyncratic virtuosity. Buzard switches to dobro on the Grand Ol’ Opry-styled offering “Dark End of the Hallway,” which features some lyrical turns by Gate on viola. Brown picks up his fiddle and deals in inimitable fashion on the country flavored instrumental “Song for Renee,” throwing in a comical quote from “Love in Bloom” (Jack Benny’s old theme) before launching into some bluesy abandon. The revved up instrumental closer “Up Jumped the Devil” is proving ground for every bluegrass fiddler, and Gate passes with flying colors. His instrumental version of Wiley Walker’s “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again,” another fiddle showcase, is straight from the country (cajun country, that is). The energized, hilarious shuffle “Street Corner” is Gate’s chance to wail on harmonica and he struts his stuff on mandolin on the bluegrassy instrumental romp “Take Me Back to Tulsa.” On “Here Am I,” his lament about love lost and lonliness, Rev. Gate speaks with the knowing of a blues preacher while on the menacing title track he sings about “cuttin’ yo’ doggone head.” A complex man of many moods and varied talents, the one and onliest Gatemouth delivers all the goods on this excellent sampler.

Originally Published