Black Jack

by: Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

There aren't many 75-year-old entertainers who rock with the intensity of Gatemouth Brown, a multi-instrumentalist from Louisiana who is a master of guitar, fiddle, viola, mandolin, and harmonica. A look into Brown's history shows him leading a 23-piece orchestra in the late '40s, after a stint during the '20s and '30s as a Peacock Records recording artist. During the '60s, Brown traded in his guitar for a gun, signing on as a deputy sheriff in New Mexico. In 1974, at the age of 50, he jumped headfirst back into his music, and the rest is history. Black Jack was originally released on the Music Is Medicine label in 1977, and explores the versatility of Brown's love for Texas swing, featuring outstanding tracks laced with swing, big band, R&B and straight-up blues. Alternating between a smoking guitar and a fiery fiddle, Brown drives these 12 songs like a stock-car at NASCAR's Darlington, fast as he can go but still in absolute control of the vehicle. From the funky guitar picking of "Chickenshift," to the bluesy title cut "Black Jack," Brown burns brightly. The soulful "Dark End of the Hallway" is another standout track, as is the intense closing instrumental, "Up Jumped the Devil." For anyone who has previously tacked the blues label on Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's considerable cowboy hat, now is the time to reconsider. While Brown is indeed a master bluesman, he is equally adept at handling Texas swing, country, jazz and rock & roll. A man of many talents who shows absolutely zero signs of slowing down. ~ Michael B. Smith

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