The history of early Texas jump blues is often summed up in one name – T-Bone Walker. While Walker’s pioneering guitarwork, great original songs, and landmark recordings are justly famous, his star quality eclipsed numerous other fine musicians. Some of these players have seen the spotlight here and there on compilation LPs and CDs, but now with JSP’s stellar four-CD box set Boogie Uproar, they take center stage and get the recognition they’re due.
Much of the first two CDs here are devoted to Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, a familiar name to most blues fans. And yet these early Peacock-label recordings by Gatemouth have long been tough finds. Inspired by Walker – like most other players here – Gate took up the guitar and began copping T-Bone’s best. These early sides may thus be derivative, but they boast a charming crudity and energy that is rollicking and rolling.
Gatemouth’s developing style here didn’t hold a candle to T-Bone’s sophistication, but he makes up for any shortcomings with his inspired energy – as well as his overdriven tone, glorious distortion, and sheer joyous volume. Some of his instrumental boogies are pure proto-rock that alone mark this budget-priced boxed set as worth every penny.
The recordings of Gatemouth’s brother, James “Widemouth” Brown, are also resurrected from the dusty vaults here. Widemouth’s playing lacks his brother’s drive, but the family’s signature guitar-picking is there in spades. Must have had something to do with the teeth.
Also included are obscure, overlooked, or simply impossible-to-find sides by guitarslingers like Goree Carter, Nelson Carson, Lester Williams, and R. B. Thibadeaux. All are taken from the originals, boasting beautifully clear “vintage” sound, carefully remastered to not sound coldly digital.
Best yet is the reissue of the four vintage sides by Zuzu Bollin; these have been available before, but are notoriously tough to track down. While the arrangements and playing are a bit awkward at times, the soulfulness burns bright. If you’re a fan of Bollin’s phenomenal 1993 “rediscovery” album, Texas Bluesman, from Chuck Nevitt’s Dallas Blues Society, you’ll want this collection simply for these sides.
With 103 cuts and more than four hours of music, plus a fine booklet of Texas blues history, you simply can’t go wrong here. Great stuff!
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.