Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gary Clark Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers, 2012)

Guitarist and vocalist Gary Clark Jr. emerged from the potent Austin, Texas scene working the hard way, up through the trenches and gradually building a buzz that reached a fever pitch with the Bright Lights EP. It is easy to see why Clark has gained so much attention and major label support, he has a great package of skills: guitar playing, singing and songwriting in addition to being comfortable in any genre from contemporary rhythm and blues to gutbucket blues. Clark comes blasting out of the gate with some scalding blues rock on “Ain’t Messin’ ‘Round” and “When My Train Pulls In.” The latter is particularly impressive as it combines the time-honored blues motifs of being “born to lose” and train travel with a thoroughly modern slash and burn guitar solo. Clark switches to the other end of the spectrum with “Blak and Blu” and “The Life,” both of which are radio-friendly rhythm and blues performances that hint at hip hop at times. “Bright Lights” nods to an old Jimmy Reed song while making it all Clark’s own with ominous dark music and Clark threatening “you’re gonna know my name...” It’s a great performance, grabbing the listener’s attention in a darkly riveting fashion. But Clark can be an entertainer too, whether teasing Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun” or blasting out roadhouse rock with a killer riff and a strong backbeat on “Travis County.” In lesser hands, this might seem like a schizophrenic exercise in genre hopping, but Clark inhabits all of the music evenly and with great skill. He has a wide range of music at his fingertips and plays it all with grace and power, on his way to what will hopefully be a long and successful career. Blak and Blu - amazon.com

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