By: JOEY CHAPMAN
From the small clubs of Austin, Texas, all the way to playing at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, Gary Clark Jr. has established himself as one of the best guitar players of his generation. With his new album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, Clark redefines his sound while staying true to his roots.
The album digs much deeper lyrically into life than his first record with Warner Brothers, Blak and Blu. Clark echoes the pains of trying to make it in music in a blue collar family while battling for money and love.
The album opens with The Healing, which begins as a southern-esque blues acapella tune, which then rips into a blues, rock ‘n’ roll riff that quickly sets the tone for the opening half of the album. The song is the first single off his album and reveals what could become one of his most popular lyrics ever:
“When this world upsets me, this music sets me free.”
Yes, the tone is set, but every song on the album takes a unique life of its own as Clark continues to draw from different influences. Grinder is another blues, rock tune that ends with him ripping a solo with no instruments accompanying it, though it’s quickly contrasted by the trippy blues, funk song Star.
Fans are then given a treat as Clark slows it down for the relaxing soul tune Our Love, featuring beautiful backing vocals that add perfect texture to Clark’s riffs and vocals. The song is followed by an acoustic number titled Church, a reflective piece that looks back on life with some regret, though he looks for spiritual strength as he tries to get to the next chapter of his life. The song gives way to Hold On, where he talks about hitting struggles in life but assuring himself and those around him, “We’re gonna make it.”
Funk makes a comeback with the track Cold Blooded. Shifting course, Wings carries a heavy hip hop inspired drum beat with haunting backing vocals and simple notes that ring out in the background. Funk then continues with the upbeat, feel good song BYOB.
Clark takes it to a different level with the amazing tune Can’t Sleep. The song features a funky guitar riff, which you may forget about if you get lost in the funkadelic bass line. It’s real funk, not to be confused with Bruno Mars’ attempted Uptown Funk.
Stay and Shake are two of the best songs you’ll find on the album, which set you up for the album’s final song, Down To Ride, a slow 80s and hip hop inspired number. The song’s outro eventually fades out and leaves listeners longing for more, but 13 tracks is all you get.
There isn’t an album in recent memory that combines elements of blues, funk, mo-town, hip hop, country, and rock and executes it perfectly. Actually, there may not be an artist that’s ever attempted this, but leave it to Gary Clark Jr. to set the bar high. No review of the album can do justice as to just how pure, funky, and laid back it is. The album is currently available in stores, on iTunes, and online at www.garyclarkjr.com.