Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Album Review: Gary Clark Jr. - Live / North America 2016

Gary Clark Jr.
Live / North America 2016
*** out of *****

Gary Clark Jr. is a must see live act. Melding blues rock, soul and grooves he consistently delivers, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Live / North America 2016 works well. What is surprising is that he felt the need to release yet another live documentation after 2014’s double album Live.

Alternating live albums with studio releases may be the game plan, but when his studio releases disappoint, a lot hangs on the live disks. While this is a fine documentation of Clark in his element it seems superfluous.

“Church” gets some added texture with nuanced harmonica playing while “Shake” is a fun rave up featuring Leon Bridges and Jeff Dazey. His choice of cover tunes this go around is pitch perfect with Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” and the blues standard “My Baby’s Gone” by Elmore James.

The two best tracks here are “When My Train Pulls In” and closer “Numb” which also happen to be older tunes that were both released on Live as well. “When My Train Pulls In” is Clark’s signature song and allows him to explore sonic textures, fret board acrobatics and grooving slowdowns; it is central to who is as an artist and this version delivers the goods. “Numb” ends the disk with fuzz pedal fireworks as the groove gets deep as mud and just plows ahead.

Newer tunes don’t fare as well both “Cold Blooded” and “Our Love” go the smooth R&B route with Clark singing in a high register without the desired effect while “The Healing” is a slow slog. All are good-hearted though and in each tune when it comes time to solo, Clark shines.

We have mentioned before, but Clark seems firmly entrenched with other amazingly talented live players like Robert Randolph and Trombone Shorty who have yet to put it all together for a killer album or even a standout single. However, by constantly releasing live albums he is at least playing to his strengths and giving fans mementos of each of his tours.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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