BACK IN 1973, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was better known in Europe than in his own country. This Texas guitarist and fiddler blithely ignored categories and often followed a low-down Mississippi blues with a jaunty western swing or a jazz standard with a cajun dance tune. No matter what the style, Brown's subtle instrumental fills and knowing vocals gave each genre the inimitable "Gatemouth" stamp.
Since then, Brown's recognition in America has steadily improved, and he even won a Grammy in 1983. Alligator Records has gone back to the five albums he made for France's Black and Blue Records in the early '70s and picked out nine of the best tracks for an excellent anthology, "Pressure Cooker." This collection leans heavily toward the jazz and blues side of Brown's musical personality; he never touches a fiddle on this album.
Brown is joined by three jazz greats: Houston saxophonist Arnett Cobb, Kansas City pianist Jay McShann and St. Louis organist Milt Buckner. These old pros give the blues a crisp swing and the jazz a gritty emotionalism. On the title tune, they take a Miles Davis riff and cook it up Texas-style. Brown's "She Winked Her Eye" is the kind of witty blues narrative that some smart blues revival band should snap up.
CLARENCE "GATEMOUTH" BROWN -- "Pressure Cooker" (Alligator, AL 4745); appearing Sunday at Kilimanjaro's Heritage Hall.