This Gary Clark Jr article was written by Steven Loftin, a GIGsoup contributor
On a recent trip to Oslo, Norway, an episode of Jimmy Fallon was on the air and his musical guest was Gary Clark Jr. If you have ever been to Scandinavia you’ll understand that it’s about as far from the delta blues of the ‘South’ as you can get, think more Santa’s Grotto-cum-Death Metal Factory. But four and a half minutes of Gary Clark Jr, his voice and his guitar, could transport any listener, from anywhere, to the stifling heat of the Mississippi Delta.
The track he bestowed upon us was the opener to the record, ‘The Healing’, a fuzzy, thumping blues number that somehow manages to achieve being restrained without coming across like it’s been grounded. Clark Jr. resorts to a minimalistic touch to the song with gorgeous riffs reminiscent of the late B.B King, a late 1960’s Keith Richards wet dream.
This is Clark’s sophomore effort and there is certainly no perceptible slump, tackling subjects ranging from personal lust to the state of black America; a no holds barred journey through Clark Jr’s mind. There are certainly moments when things may appear to lull and the pace will slow down, and particularly early at that. With ‘Start’, ‘Our Love’ and ‘Church’ the record may not continue the initial rousing fuzz-blues we’d expect but it shows brilliantly the adaptability of Clark and how he can jump from wailing a guitar to using harmonica and acoustic guitar like a modern-day Dylan. There are even moments on this record that wouldn’t be amiss as cuts from a forgotten Prince bootleg or D’Angelo record.
When compared to his debut major label record ‘Blak and Blu’, what we have here is an evolution in Gary Clark Jr’s ability to merge blues/rock with hip-hop/r’n’b. Almost seamless, the transitions are far from as surprising as, and arguably more polished than, they were on the latter. Clark has bridged genres, an effort that will only benefit him in the future when it comes to collaborations, cross-overs and, most importantly, new releases. There are also elements of bragging with the track ‘BYOB’, a well-earned minute long dick grab, something just to let us know that he’s having a good time.
There’s even a throwback to that sweet 60’s guitar sound on ‘Shake’, a rollicking rock’n’roll number that’s made to sound as if you’re listening on a 45 that you inherited from your father. ‘The Story of Sonny Boy Slim’ is a solid set of tracks that showcase the development of Gary Clark Jr., a celebratory refinement of everything that was great from his debut.
‘The Story of Sonny Boy Slim’ is out now via Warner Bros Records.