Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown – Sittin’ on the dock, with the world at bay
On the heels of two albums driven by big-band Texas swing — 1997’s Gate Swings (Verve) and 1999’s American Music, Texas Style (Blue Thumb) — Brown’s new Blue Thumb release, Back To Bogalusa, rides a more laid-back bayou groove. “I wanted to back down,” he says. He brought in a few extra horns, Mike Loudermilk pitched in on electric and acoustic guitar, and slide guitarist Sonny Landreth and Cajun accordionist Zachary Richard sat in on several numbers. Otherwise the tracks were cut with his regular band: Harold Floyd on bass, Joe Krown on keyboards, David Peters on drums, and Eric Demmer on saxophone.
They didn’t dally in the studio. “I don’t take no six months to do no album!” announces Gatemouth. “What you gonna do on it for six months?! I know guys stayin’ in the studio two and three months, workin’ on four tunes! That’s ridiculous! For what?” He pauses to chuckle. “Took about a week. Workin’ at my own pace.”
He concedes he’s had to adjust that pace of late. Age, he says, and he’s all right with that. “Mm-hmm…that’s the way it is,” he muses. Suddenly, a thought strikes, from left field. “These people my age, gettin’ all these facelifts! What for?”
You wouldn’t know where to start, eh, Gate? “Hell no! If that rubber band broke on top of my head, the skin’d fall down and trip ya!” Now he’s really laughing.
He will speak out.
On the trouble with America: “Look at our jails now. They’ve got 40 percent more blacks in jail than whites, and they’re all doin’ the same damn thing — messin’ up. Society feels like the black is into dope, well that’s wrong, because the white’s into the dope, too.”
On the trouble with other countries: “We help every country we can get out of a bog hole, yet, they don’t like us. A lot of ’em are very phony about it. And [now] we’ll see what’s gonna happen when we need help. Once we help them, it’s kiss my butt after that. And that’s wrong.”
On kids these days: “I try to tell the young people, try and not hurt each other, because if you hurt somebody, it’s the same as hurtin’ yourself. It’s hard to talk to the young people because they’re into another thing of their own. That goes for whites and blacks and whatever else out there, because they’re rebellin’ against society.”
On body art: “Look today how they’re piercin’ their faces all up with holes and puttin’ earrings in their tongues and nostrils…I mean it’s haaarrible-lookin’, man! I have some friends, their daughter’s got more holes in her than a sieve. With rings hangin’ in every one. And on the other side of the coin, the blacks, especially ’round New Orleans, puttin’ all this cheap gold in their mouth, and keeping their mouth open so you can see it. It’s very distasteful to me. I just try to tell them, I think you’re ruinin’ yourself at the same time. They don’t seem to care.”
On automotive sound systems: “They get right upside of you and turn them things up, and I got a big heavy 1976 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and it vibrates that car with all the boomin’. Now how in the hell can they stand it sittin’ in their cars?”
On infomercial psychics: “That woman on the television…if she’s so smart, why can’t she go and tell us who killed that baby in Colorado?”
On certain white rock singers: “Howlin’ like a cat caught in a hot oven.”
On blues singers: “Cryin’ about who owes them…nobody owes you anything!”
On rap singers: “Lookit these rap singers. I mean…”
He stops now. “I see so much wrong, and they ain’t nothin’ I can do about it. We can talk about it, but that’s as far as we can go with it.” He sighs. “Yeah, I don’t know, this world looks like it’s sinkin’ fast…”
How do you avoid cynicism, then, Mr. Brown?
“Well, for one thing, I stay around my house, mostly!”
He’s laughing again.