You’ve seen him on Late night with Jimmy Fallon, and on Leno. Texas-born, Gary Clark Jr. is a soulful, funk-rock guitarist who is reminiscent of Kravitz but that’s where the comparison ends. His voice and music has a much more blues feel to it. And, he’s right-handed… From the onset, this 15-track album, Blak and Blu, is certainly in your face with the track entitled “Ain’t Messin’ Around”. A horn heralded, head banger with a catchy supporting guitar riff is paired with Clark’s vocals and a guitar solo for you axe fiends. The title track “Blak and Blu” is awesomely soulful and a paradox to his introductory track. Clark shows his vocal skills on this track well, the harmony is quite good in this vocally layered joint. Furthermore in songs like “Please come Home” he not only shows vocal prowess by singing in his falsetto, he switches to a waltz with another shredding guitar solo.
“Takin’ shots waiting til tomorrow, Tryna fill up what’s hollow”… These lyirics from “Bright Lights” struck a chord with me as did the whole song since it is actually a personalized cover/adaptation of the song “Bright Lights, Big City” by Jimmy Reed. The use of pans in stereo add to the dynamics in the production of the song and so does the delay on the snare, listen for it, see if you agree. Oh, by the way, the song is featured as part of the Max Payne 3 video game soundtrack.
As the album progresses, Blak and Blu renders less guitar-shredded songs such as “Things are Changin’” and “Soul” both of which are more RnB in nature; while in song like “Next Door Neighbor Blues”, Clark not only shows his Blues abilities, the production teleports you back to the era when recordings were crude monaural one-mic acoustic recordings in an unforgiving room, with no acoustic foam on the walls; just hardwood floors and a rickety chair for the singer and his guitar. It is this creativity that makes this song one of my favorites on the album.
Overall, a very well produced album, some may see it as misplaced or have a hard time assigning Blak and Blu to one particular genre. But alas, that’s the beauty of being an independent artist and Gary Clark Jr. took full liberties to express all facets of his art. Fusing elements of Hip-hop, RnB, Blues, Rock and Country, he crafted a no holds barred, un-compromised, unapologetic extension of himself. He certainly has carved out a special place for himself as a musician and vocalist; and in so doing, he’s leaving an indelible mark in his wake.