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One of the more admirable things about Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown during the course of his long career was how he refused to be typecast, resisted all efforts to label him and adamantly refused to remain confined to any stylistic boxes.

Because he was a black guitarist from Texas in the mid-20th Century he was most often referred to as a blues artist, a moniker he dismissed. Later in life he played country music and yet wouldn’t have been comfortable being classified in that genre either, that is, if they’d have even acknowledged him to begin with.

He kept insisting he played American music in all of its forms and that performing one type of song didn’t necessarily mean you were forever destined to be thought of as nothing else.

Yet those types of music are distinctly different at times and while we wholeheartedly agree that he doesn’t deserve to be thought of strictly as belonging to any one camp, it’s not demeaning or dismissive of him to point out which records are the best fit in which genre.

Maybe anticipating this and dreading the ramifications of having someone else define him, this particular record is an awkward fit in ALL genres, giving Gatemouth Brown the last laugh once again.


I Want You To Pull Me Through
This side has every appearance of indulging Gatemouth Brown in his loftier ideas rather than his record label misguidedly aiming for a crossover hit.

Don Robey, who was Brown’s manager as well as the owner of Peacock Records, was a bottom line kind of guy, seemingly not somebody who would cater to pop audiences, nor would he be likely to even consider it a good risk to take no matter the potential upside.

Yet keep in mind that he got into music by owning The Bronze Peacock nightclub which was hardly just a hole in the wall place as they catered to classy black audiences with their well-rehearsed floor shows and as a result maybe Win With Me Baby was something that they felt would lend a touch of elegance to Brown’s normal fare.

Now of course he had to still deliver what it was that even the most nose-in-the-air patron had come to experience when they saw Gatemouth’s name on the marquee and as a result this is going to have to balance a lot of disparate elements and try to fuse them together in a way that doesn’t clash.

Somehow they kinda manage to do that… but whether or not that’s a good thing is another question entirely.


Love Is A Gamble
If you were to take specific characteristics of a few major genres and toss them into a room together chances are you’d come away with something like this.

The appearance of the pop styled horn section which opens this up makes you think the world has turned upside down, as such highfalutin aspirations might be expected on a vocal group record from time to time, or maybe a rock balladeer, but not on a record made by someone calling himself Gatemouth who brandishes an electric guitar that can raise the dead.

Sure enough the horns are the weakest point of the arrangement, giving this a disconcerting vibe from the start. Yet when Brown adds his guitar the two unequal sounds actually mesh fairly well together.

Of course we might just be distracted by the guitar which could make anything sound good up against it and when he drops out those horns still sound conspicuous, but it’s a testament to his playing that he brings them into the fold as well as he does.

The rest of the arrangement on Win With Me Baby is wisely centered on the guitar including an extended break in which he draws out each note impressively as the horns mostly stay out of the way.

During the vocal sections those horns are a little more noticeable though and their strained notes can’t help but seem as if they’re intruding somewhat on the proceedings making it an uneasy listening experience. Yet each time you’re about to cringe along comes Brown’s guitar or a more passionate line reading to take your mind off them a little bit.

This is hardly the best approach to take for a single – relying on distraction – but if it prevents you from giving up on them altogether then it can at least be said that their methods are reasonably effective.

I Have Always Been A Winner
Where Brown attempts to make up for these stylistic conflicts is in his own performance, as he delivers a yearning vocal that focuses your attention while he sings about this unnamed girl who seems to be sort of an inspiration or a muse for him in life.

It’s possible they’re a couple of course but by the sound of Brown’s heartfelt plea to her and the vague gambling reference it comes across more as he’s somebody making a desperate stand of some sort and wants an ally in his time of need.

He’s got plenty of confidence, or at least he pretends he does, and because of that it is rather appealing on first glance, but without a more detailed explanation, backstory or resolution Win With Me Baby is kind of the musical form of an impressionistic painting… an expression of emotions as opposed to a proper song.

Whether or not you give yourself over to what it’s trying to do, overlooking the sometimes ill-at-ease merger of musical sources and the unspecified plot to focus on his strong vocals and captivating guitar work is sort of a fifty-fifty proposition.

On one hand those two elements are surely what you came for so if you allow yourself to hone in on them you might be inclined to dismiss everything else, no matter how incongruous it sounds.

But on the other hand if you’re here for the fireworks are get a lot of smoke instead, that tends to leave a bad taste in your mouth no matter how nice the few explosions look in the night sky.


Placing All My Bets On You
You can’t really fault Gatemouth Brown for taking a chance like this, especially on a B-side to a very solid song in She Walk Right In which is naturally going to draw the majority of attention on this single.

A more “normal” B-side wasn’t going to affect his long term prospects much anyway, so by changing things up a little he at least had a chance to open some people’s eyes with what else he was capable of… or so the thinking probably went.

But the problem with that game plan is the best parts of Win With Me Baby are in fact completely in line with what he usually does, while the more experimental aspects of the arrangement that set this record apart just seem out of place.

So while this is hardly as big of a disaster as these hybrid efforts usually are, it’s also not something that is an underrated gem waiting to be re-discovered either.

In the end, the usual skills Gatemouth Brown brings to the table are more than enough to suffice so there’s no need to put on a suit and tie to impress a few people who are doing little more than peering in the window while passing by.


(Visit the Artist page of Gatemouth Brown for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)