Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - Chronological 1947-51 (Classics, 2002)

During Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's six-decade long blues career, he led many a band and cut scores of records for many different labels, but none jumped and swung quite as hard as these cracking examples of proto rock 'n' roll Brown cut in the post-war years. Influenced by the jiving blues of the great Louis Jordan and the sophisticated swing of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Brown put together a horn heavy band that swung the jump blues like mad and then went the extra mile of layering his protean electric guitar and powerful vocals on top, creating a genre defying monster in the process.

With Tunes like "Boogie Rambler" and "Gatemouth Boogie" the music was probably pretty popular in the jukeboxes of the times as well. The band could spin a fine ballad too, as "2 O'Clock in the Morning" demonstrates. The finest tune on the set may be the absolutely blasting "I Live My Life" which finds the band playing full-out rock 'n' roll six years before Elvis with the band riffing up a storm behind him as Gatemouth heaves thunderbolts of electric guitar and chest thumping vocals. Neophytes may want to go with the classic early-Brown compilation The Peacock Recordings on Rounder Records, but if you like what you hear there, this is a can't-miss way to dig deeper into the great musician's early years.

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