Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Release Review - Gary Clark Jr's Blak and Blu

Just close your eyes and think of England.

Great things are in store for Austin's three-time Best Blues and Electric Guitarist, Gary Clark Jr. 

Unless anyone listens to his new album Blak and Blu.

One of the most anticipated blues rock albums of the year was released on October 22nd but there's little blues rock on it. Gary stated in an interview recently that he ditched his touring band for this new album in order to go in the studio with a fresh sound. What he left the studio with sounds like that new studio band was made up of corporate executives and the creative talents behind Justin Beiber. And the rhythm section of Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face."

Clark's Bright Lights EP (2011) was an excellent glimpse of what the future holds for Texas style blues. Clark's brand of fuzzy, gritty, dirty blues is to Stevie Ray Vaughn what the Black Keys were to Junior Kimbrough. But there's little of that here. 

Three songs from that EP made it onto this new full length album, but only the EP's title track "Bright Lights" gets left virtually untouched. His wonderfully soulful "Things Are Changin'" has been turned into a ballad ala 1980 Marvyn Gaye. But without the soul. Gone are the expert Epiphone harmonics, replaced by an uninspired series of soft electronic snares, cymbal splashes and the requisite finger snaps. 

The fuzzy intro to "When My Train Pulls In" is a redeeming venture into the old staple of American Blues music storytelling. It's a pure late night drive kind of groove, and shows off where Clark belongs. 

The song "Numb" works well, but this is another song he's been playing for a couple of years. 

Then comes "You Saved Me." A song so formulary, any 90's boy band could have done it convincingly. "Oh baby, you got it all, yeah, I'm so addicted, I want you more and more, yeah, yeah, yeah."

Did Kara Dioguardi write this?

Bonus track "Soul" opens with a promising subtle snare shuffle, now we're gonna get low and dirty right? Not quite. 

"All I can do lady is think about you baby, yeah, ooh, ohh"

Well fire up the fuzz, toss in a little tremelo and a healthy serving of reverb, "Travis Country" comes on strong... Just waiting for Travis Tritt to start singing "Mercy, look what just walked through that door. Hello T-R-O-U-B-L-E"

Come to think of it, didn't Chuck Berry do this song 65 years ago? 

It sounds like a song that was cut from the Honeydripper soundtrack for being too corny. And since I was the only person to see that film, let me tell you, it was pretty corny as a whole. 

And then there's "The Life." Which comes off as a Bieberesque attempt to make an epic summer chill song along the lines of Will Smith's "Summertime."

Why can't anyone write a "Sunday Morning Coming Down" anymore?

This whole album left me wondering "Who is Gary Clarke Jr?" 

The answer, I hope, lies in "Next Door Neighbor Blues." A tasteful nod to Son House and his "Death Letter Blues." This is Clark's best foray on the album. It's where he sounds most comfortable, a bluesman, his slide guitar, some footstompin' and a story to tell. Although maybe more fittingly modern, his woman just packed up and left with his Cadillac, Son House's woman had to be layed out on the cooling board.

Clark has drawn from his diverse influences, from R&B, Doo Wop, Blues, Gospel... And that's the problem. It fails to have a cohesive feel.

Gary Clark Jr is known to be one of the best up and coming guitar players today. His live shows are a must see. 

The question on this album remains:

Where is Gary Clark Jr on it?

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Eyes Without a Face" is an awesome song.

1 comment:

Bello John said...

His live shows are a snoozefest. Gary Clark Jr. is not talented and it is sad that anyone likes his music.