Album Review: Gary Clark Jr., Blak and Blu

Austin-born guitarist Gary Clark Jr. has been heralded as “the future of Texan Blues” by none other than US President Barack Obama. But the man himself has said he is “influenced by blues, jazz and soul as well as hip-hop”. As such, blues-rock purists who only heard the first of these descriptions and have set themselves up for an album of kick-ass guitar riffs and solos, might be somewhat let down by his debut full-length album. The heavy moments are certainly there; the trademark fuzz-laden growl of Clark’s Epiphone Casino are a mainstay on the album, and give first single “Bright Lights”, “Third Stone From The Sun” and “When My Train Pulls In” a unique Hendrix-like intensity.Yet every bona-fide blues track on Blak and Blu seems to be interspersed with a foray into a different African-American musical style, more consistent with Clark’s description of himself. The horn stabs on opener “Ain’t Messin’ Round” are distinctly motown, while Clark’s smooth vocals combined with a soft drum beat give the title track an urban, hip-hop feel.  Those who want straight out blues-rock would prefer Clark’s first release Bright Lights EP, which includes the relentless rock and roll boogie track “Don’t Owe You A Thang” and “Things Are Changin’”, as well as earlier versions of “Bright Lights” and “When My Train Pulls In”. Nonetheless, Blak and Blu is worth your time for the musical variety Clark serves up, and has definite mainstream potential. If we believe the US President, and this man is indeed the future of Texan Blues, then clearly the genre’s future lies in its ability to integrate itself with other contemporary musical styles and give them a new and harder edge, which this album does.by Alexander Darling

April 26th 2013
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