Gary Clark Jr. has been one of my favorite guitarists for quite some time now. I discovered his work very shortly after I had begun playing the guitar myself, and his bluesy shredding was something I aspired to. Clark hails from Austin, Texas, and grew up playing Antoine’s as a regular gig, a club frequented by the likes of the Vaughn brothers. Austin’s influence upon Clark are definitely discernible. Clark’s music bears its own uniquities as well; Clark’s “obsession” with fuzz pedals also possesses a certain dominance over his playing.
The Story of Sunny Boy Smith blends blues playing with rhythms that are considerably less blues inspired — almost sounding as if they belong in a hip-hop song — with the first track Healing. Clark’s soulful voice on the other hand, could be used to sing R&B, were the hands less gifted with an axe. He solos on this song, like most, with an improvisational fury that is unique, at least in this age to Clark. Personally, the way he solos has always reminded me of Hendrix; The way he seems to know exactly what he is doing, and at the same time, to be discovering the solo for the first time.
Can’t Sleep demonstrates Gary Clark Jr.’s ability to completely change musical direction. The guitar on this song is staccato, trebley, and the most disco-sounding blues I’ve ever heard. This is the beauty of Clark’s music. It, like his home city, is a musical melting pot, with various influences in both the sound and spirit of the music. When push comes to shove, this is still blues-rock, but it is also much richer than many of the genres other contemporary offerings.
Clark guest starred in the Sonic Highways documentary series, based on a Foo Fighters album, for the episode that focused on the Austin music scene. Speaking of the scene, and its modern degeneration by police implemented noise regulations, Clark said “This is what we do. We make noise. We make loud noise, and people like it. Don’t [mess] with that!” At the time it was clear that this was his mantra. I’m happy to say that he has not deviated since.