Music Review: Blak and Blu Gary Clark Jr. (2013)

Posted: June 22, 2013 in Music
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blak and blu

I really don’t write much about music, with the likes of Justin Bieber and the American Idol stars achieving superstardom, there is not much to write about.  Then last week, I heard a song called “Next Door Neighbor Blues” by Gary Clark Jr. and my faith in music and musicians was revived.  Here is my review of Clark’s first cd.

1.  Aint Messin’ Around:  this song has the feel of a 1960’s song, there is no better way I can explain it, staccato guitar, horns, a happy beat, a loud and discordant guitar solo.  I feel like some go-go girls should be dancing to this song on Top of the Pops or something. A very  audacious way to start an album.

2. When the Train Pulls in:  A more traditional blues song, musically reminiscent like B.B. King, except with heavier guitars, the guitar solos remind me of Hendrix a lot. His voice in this song reminds me of Doug Pinnick of King’s X.

3.  Blak and Blu:  This song is more like the New Jack Swing style of the early 90’s featuring artists like Maxwell.  If you don’t remember who Maxwell is, think John Legend. A very smooth jazzy R&B song.

4.  Bright Lights:  More Blues, heavy fuzzy, Hendrix type guitar work.  Very nice phrasing on the guitar solos.

5.  Travis County:  For a change of pace, this song sounds like Bo Didley, or Chuck Berry, tells the story of a guy being arrested in a small presumably Southern County.  A fun song.

6.  The Life:  This sounds more like a pop single, with a hip hop beat, and John Legend type vocals. Hardly any guitar in this song at all, another style in a surprisingly versatile album.

7.Glitter Aint Gold (Jumping for Nothing):  A really heavy grungy start to this song.  It really reminds me of heavier songs by Lenny Kravitz.

8. Numb:  The guitar riff in this song reminds me of “Come Together”  by the Beatles, the heavy distortion in the solo, and the willingness to go out of key reminds me of Hendrix, this song especially reminds me of “Red House” by Hendrix.

9.  Please Come Home: Clark again jumps into the wayback machine and does his best Smokey Robinson falsetto, a style Prince has also appropriated.  Very interesting phrasing in the guitar solo.

10. Things Are Changin’ Another trip to the 90’s,  A nice mellow  R&B feel.

11.  Third Stone From the Sun: Clark finally pays tribute to Hendrix with Third Stone From the Sun, not as good as the original, but what is? Clark changes the song in ways I don’t like, for example changing the tempo in the beginning of the song, unlike Hendrix who goes off on an extended solo, Clark changes the whole mood of the song and adds hip hop record scratching to it.

12.  If You Love Me Like You Say:  A slow R&B jam, with plenty of guitars, interesting chord progression, reminds me of  Purple Rain by Prince, especially when he slips into his falsetto voice.

13:  Next Door Neighbor Blues:  Going back to early blues guitarists like Robert Johnson, or John Lee Hooker, a really evocative song the way only a blues song can be, about love and loss.

On the whole I love this album, it’s not derivative to me, but I can tell where Clark’s influences come from and they’re pretty much all over the map, and that’s a good thing. Grungy Rock, R&B, blues, pop, it’s all here.  It doesn’t hurt that I like all of his influences.  It’s also obvious that Gary Clark Jr. has a lot of talent and is musically unafraid to take on any style.  I like that most of all. Songs that stand out are, Next Door Neighbor Blues, If You Love Me Like You Say, Glitter Aint Gold, and When The Train Pulls in, but there’s something here for everyone.  Real guitar played by human hands, what a joyful noise it is.

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