Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Album Review- Gary Clark Jr. -Blak and Blu

Gary Clark Jr
Blak and Blu
***and1/2 out of *****

Talent and success do not always go hand in hand, the music business is just that, a business.  With access to fans being greater then ever now through technology, bands and artists need less help from labels and the "industry" then ever but mainstream success can be even more elusive with a more segmented then ever before listening population.

Gary Clark Jr's first full length album tries to break through on a national scale casting a broad net trying to appeal to everyone.  It is mostly successful but strays from the electric bluesman roots that earned him this major label debut. It seems to put style on shuffle with songs that have pop ("Ain't Messin 'Round"), hip-hop/new school R&B ("The Life", "You Saved Me", "Blak and Blu"), and rock-a-billy("Travis County") overtones; even the blues track "Numb" has a metal texture that should appeal to the headbanging crew.      

You can't fault him for expanding his pallet but these tracks, especially the hip-hop/smooth stylized tracks, don't hold up with the hot bread and butter blues songs that made Clark such a sensation when he burst on the scene.   

3 of the 4 songs from Clark's Bright Lights EP show up here in re-recorded style and show off his blazing skill with the guitar and form the best songs on Blak and Blu. "When My Train Pulls In" gets a burning electric treatment this time around as does "Things Are Changin'" while "Bright Lights" keeps its confident, sexy, strut.

Knowing that the Jimi Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughn/Every great electric bluesman from the past comparisons are going to be inevitable Gary Clark Jr attacks them head-on with a staggering take on Jimi's "Third Stone From The Sun" that melts into Albert Collins "If You Love Me Like You Say".  This is an explosive pairing that shows off Clark's talent and even incorporates Tom Morello like guitar scratches in the middle.      

Overall Clark's talent will win the day, and maybe expectations were too high coming in for the Austin, TX man, but this album seems to be trying to hard to appease everyone straight out of the gate and ends up playing like an i-tunes shuffle of his skills rather then a modern era classic.

Clark is still be finding his way as an artist, but just like recent super talented players before him (Robert Randolph, Trombone Shorty, etc) his skill is so immense he will always have a crowd in front of him cheering him on until the next effort.  
We loved Clark's 4 song EP when we first heard it earlier this year.  We were blown away when we caught him live as he dominated the blues tent down at Jazzfest, hopefully making it his home stage for years to come.  We have to say on the grand scheme of things we are disappointed with this full length album, while it is a good first step in his career (hence the 3 and 1/2 stars) it isn't the masterpiece we were hoping for.  The comparisons to Shorty and RR are easy; super skilled players who tend to write songs all over the map in terms of quality and context when it comes to the studio. I will always try to catch all of them live, but I am guessing I won't be reaching for their studio albums much (except for Backatown, I still love that disk).

Anyway if you haven't heard GCJr yet grab the disk here, and definitely catch him live when you can RtBE will be there tomorrow.  Below are a few samples of the tunes:
"Third Stone From The Sun/If You Love Me Like You Do"
"Nextdoor Neighbor Blues" Live

"Numb" Live


  1. Was thinking about seeing him out here next week, but tickets are over $300 for a seat so the hype is definitely there. Just refuse to pay that much lol.

    1. Yeah that is too much, hopefully he will be down at Jazzfest so you can catch him when we go next year! BOOSH!