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Gary Clark Jr - Got those curates egg blues,
This review is from: Blak And Blu (MP3 Download)
The campaign for Gary Clark Jr has received a Presidential endorsement from the White House with Barack Obama describing him as "the future" and Classic Rock endowing "Blak and Blu" with 10 out of 10. The weight of this praise is enormous and separating the reality from the hyperbole is important for while Gary Clark Jr is a great prospect this album as a musical whole does not live up to the fanfare. The problem is Clark Jr's desire not to be pigeon holed as a pure blues guitarist which is to be admired, but as a result this album lacks any sense of coherence with its sheer multiplicity of styles and often weak songs. The boisterous opener "Ain't messin around" is a classic example; yes it contains a blistering solo from Clark Jr but it repeats the chorus ad nauseam and frankly is the sort of song that sounds much better on stage than record. In a completely different league is the Cream influenced "When my train pulls in" a vintage piece of slow thundering blues where all Clark Jr's skills are on full display not least a great vocal style and solos flying off like lighting strikes. He is venturing into an area which is already populated with premier division guitarists like Dan Auerbach and Joe Bonamassa but he holds his own in this company and this seven minutes is possibly the finest on the record, although the later funky blues of "Bright lights" is also very good. Sadly the title track doesn't match this feat. It is essentially throwaway funk and some have already noticed the resemblance to singers like Anthony Hamilton and John Legend. Equally do we really need a rerun of every Chuck Berry cliche in the book on "Travis County" which is at heart the riff from Johnny B Goode including the guitar solo! The barrel is scraped however on "This life" which is essentially sounds like a Usher B side.
The second half of the album takes a heavier turn in most songs (with the exception of the weak doo wop of "Please come home") and is all the better for it not least the hard rock of the pulverising "Numb" where Clark spins a nasty riff over a huge backbeat. Granted Gary Clark is no Jimi Hendrix but his slowed down cover of "Third rock from the sun" combined with Albert Collins standard "You love me like you say" is very nicely cooked and has some excellent guitar shredding over its near 10 minute duration. Thankfully the album does go out with a bang with the power funk of "You saved me" with its razor guitar powering a very strong commercial pop song. And then at last we get some proper Delta ambience with the excellent "Next door neighbour blues" where the ghosts of Big Joe Williams and Son House are invoked and a stool in a Gin joint required to pay full attention.
"Blak and Blu" therefore is an album that cries out for a producer to reign in Clark's tendency to aimlessly genre hop and pin him down to specifics. In doing so you also pray that what comes next will draw more heavily on the fact that Clark Jr is a brilliant acoustic guitarist which is bizarrely almost completely absent on this album. The irritation of the good track/bad track approach that Clark Jr takes to the album's sequencing really does wear patience. Around half the tracks on this album are pure 5 star quality but they are padded with sub standard fare. This is a shame since Clark Jr undoubtedly has a killer album up his sleeve, sadly "Blak and Blu" is not quite it.