Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Review by Oscar Jordan

 

When Gary Clark Jr. first appeared on the national scene, music fans on the Internet suddenly became blues experts. Opinions burst like flak guns on D-Day with everything from shortsighted Jimi Hendrix comparisons to “I don’t get it.” Even with a thumbs up from Eric Clapton, and visceral performances at the Crossroads Festival, it wasn’t enough to earn him his due.

In a climate where musicians like Matt Schofield and Philip Sayce are considered top-tier blues guitarists, Clark’s authentically rooted Albert Collins less is more approach, finds contemporary blues fans leaning toward the John Mayer school of post-SRV burglary. When Clark’s Blak and Blu was released in 2012, these so-called blues fans were shocked to discover that a young, forward thinking twenty-eight year old Black guitar player enjoyed contemporary R&B, neo soul, and hip-hop. Some thought the album was “all over the place,” but didn’t consider the fact that the artist was performing 100% Black music. Blak and Blu, though a little slick, is very consistent if you think about it in that light. The idea that early blues artists played blues exclusively is a myth.

On Gary Clark Jr. Live, Clark abandons the slick for the gritty, and serves a twelve-course meal of low-tech, high-groove, and dirty rumble. It’s a seamless package that embraces the blues, but isn’t restricted by it. Clark knows where his bread is buttered and pumps out back catalogue gems like “Cat Fish Blues,” “Ain’t Messin’ Around,” and “Next Door Neighbor Blues.” He sings the hell out of these tunes with soul, conviction, and legitimacy, while his Epiphone semi-hollow body guitar and Fulltone Octafuzz, has usurped the strat and the tube screamer forever.

Clark rock and rolls on the Chucky Berry-esque “Travis County,” gets psychedelic on “Third Stone From The Sun,” and displays his Eddie Kendricks falsetto on “Come On Home.” The shifts in style are effortless as “Don’t Owe You A Thang” takes us to the swamp with bayou style fingerpicking and raunchy Texas slide. The band is on fire throughout, pushing Clark into fresh improvisational territory.

Everything shines on this two-disc set. From the lush solo chording on “Blak and Blu,” the neo soul crooning of “Things Are Changing,” to the loud low-down gnarly stomp of “Numb.” Gary Clark Jr. Live traverses a wide spectrum of Black music bound by the divine guitar influence of B.B. King and Albert Collins. You’d be hard pressed to find a more scintillating live disc this year.

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Gary Clark Jr. - Live on Warner Bros. Records
4.5Overall RR Peruser Rating
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

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