Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, No Looking Back (Alligator Records)

“I built my own prison, my mind must find the key, and nobody, nobody can open this cell but me.” Gatemouth’s hip, mature ’90s urban blues style confronts isolation, infidelity, abandonment and drugs. His strong dark humor converts contemporary preoccupation with self into wonderfully satisfying adult entertainment. The real surprise for listeners unfamiliar with the work of this fine Slidell musician is the amount of improvisation, swing and tight section work inherent in the pieces. The thoughtful balance of vocals, instrumentals, big band tunes and generous solo time for individual players is reminiscent of the best of the classic Atlantic Ray Charles era. Gatemouth’s guitar has a deliberate roughness, which keeps the sound of the band from getting too slick; his fiddle intonation is just great, and like all singers who are firstly musicians, he limits and edits his vocals so that you really do want to hear more. Louisiana R&B artists to more than their share to anonymously keep the jazz torch aflame by improvising with real balls, zip and drive.

The album has fine horn arrangements by Terry Townson and Bill Samuel, with tasty solos by the former; a really warm light guiding hand from co-producer Jim Bateman; a wonderful trombone sound from John Touchy; and a great bonus vocal duet from Michele Shocked on “I Will Be Your Friend.”