Gary Clark Jr.
Blak and Blue
By NIck GunterOctober 22, 2012
He’s not the next Hendrix. Not the next Stevie Ray Vaughan, even though they both honed their craft in Austin, TX and have played in many a same club. Nor is he the next anything. He is Gary Clark Jr., a dominant blues guitarist cementing himself as a shareholder in the blues rock revival that is slowly retrofitting this age of music.
Since 2010, Clark has been riding a bright wave of momentum built primarily on his live performance; his debut album Blak and Blu represents the culmination of those efforts and definitely holds close qualities to that unrestrained live sound. In fact, it’s his appearance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010 that helped him land a record deal with Warner Bros. Records.
What’s found across this recording is a split of personalities that Clark brings out in his music. The more prevalent one is the gritty, overdriven fuzz-drenched tracks that allow him the space to present a, at times, melodically darker form of the blues. That side makes itself well known as a current of blues distortion pull the listener along on tracks like “Numb” and “Glitter Ain’t Gold;” Clark makes it direct and easily comprehendible. The other personality is a soulful one that rests on the rhythm and blues side of the tracks. “Please Come Home” features Clark’s higher pitch surrounded by lighter melodies and orchestrated strings, still integrating a streaming solo from his arsenal on the track.
Production-wise, Blak and Blu is a thoroughly layered record with phrase filling instrumentals and self-harmonies that enrich the vocals, especially found on “You Saved Me.” Throughout some of the pieces, there is a notable reverb to the vocals that fit well together with his overdriven guitar; it gives the arrangements more of a raw complexion.
There is definite feeling in the music of Gary Clark Jr. and it’s a true representation of him as an artist. By pulling together influences of blues, soul, hip-hop and rock, Clark cultivates a mix of sounds that cross-genres can identify with. More than anything, Blak and Blu is a forceful introduction to what Gary Clark Jr. has to offer as a talented emerging artist. It’s good to know that this record comes bundled with a fire extinguisher.