By Sam Harrison
Released 11th September 2015 via Warner Brothers Records
To call Gary Clark Jr. an enigmatic figure in some way credits how cool his is, but sadly most Brits simply aren’t aware he exists. A quick scan of his résumé makes small fish of mystery and gives the Texan guitar titan the credit he deserves. His major label debut Blak & Blu ignited his meteoric rise to fame in the US, with many acclaiming him as the future of blues music, oh, and gaining him a Grammy award along the way.
Under the tutelage of Jimmie Vaughn, the brother of blues legend Stevie-Ray, Clark Jr. has carved his way to becoming arguably one of the most talented guitarists on earth today. One of his many celebrity fans, a certain Eric Clapton, even wrote Clark Jr. a letter thanking him for making him want to play again. Three years down the line, Clark Jr. decides goin’ back down south is the way to keep the hype train rolling, as he drops his sophmore LP The Story of Sonny Boy Slim.
It’s his most multifaceted record yet, dabbling in many different styles. The opening track ‘The Healing’ begins by paying homage to his gospel roots with a sample of the hymn ‘Hard Fighting Soldier’ before crashing into a sharp lick-tinted hip-hop groove. ‘Grinder’ is the first track in which we’re given a taste of what Clark Jr. can do with a guitar, as an acid-rock extravaganza laced with wah-wahs and bite which echoes Hendrix.
With the track ‘Star’ we jump genre-ship again, this time entering the phaser-filled world of Funk. Clark Jr.’s sexy falsetto compliments a jangly, sway-inducing rhythm. In ‘Our Love’ he quells any doubt over whether his voice can hold up to his colossal guitar ability by channeling the Marvin Gaye within on this soulful slow dance.
The overwhelming issue with this release is that the songwriting and hence actual foundations of the record are weak, and unable to support the impressive weight of his instrumental and vocal capabilities. “You’re just a star / I won’t let you go,” he sings on ‘Star’, with unconvincing sincerity.
Put these songs on an acoustic and they’d be nothing to sniff at. Until Clark Jr. ditches these predictable, verging on cringe-worthy lyrics and writes songs with the same passion and flair that he exudes through his guitar, he won’t be able to assume the mantle of blues rock legend.
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