A Guitar God And A Shredder
You don’t realise how talented a guitarist and bluesman the young Texan, Gary Clark Jr., is till you are into the second song on his first major label album, Blak and Blue. That’s when you see the way he can wield the axe. That’s also when you begin realising why many people compare him to Jimi Hendrix. Clark can make his guitar scream and shriek and do things that take you back to the golden era of blues based guitar rock. He’s also the one of the few contemporary African American blues guitarists to have created a ripple. Most of those in the new wave of great blues guitarists have been white—at least my favourites are (Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jack White, Dan Auerbach and so on).
The second song on Clark’s new album that I mentioned is called When My Train Pulls In and it is a nearly eight-minute-long electric blues delight. Blak and Blu has many such gems but Clark, 28, who is often described as the new saviour of the blues, has not stuck to just one genre. On the 15 songs on the deluxe version of the album, we see him move from genre to genre: R&B and elements of hip-hop, the blues, of course, but also psychedelic rock and soul (production credits for Blak and Blue includes the names of Dr. Dre and Fiona Apple).
Perhaps because of its mainstream debut, Blak and Blu, is not as raw as Clark’s earlier EPs and recordings, many of them self- released. But even so, his genius is pretty much in evidence right through the album. Clark’s talent lies not only in the way he can make his guitar sound but also in his singing style, which is not the conventional bluesman’s but that of an R&B or soul singer. And it is that combo—the guitar, whioch gives a contemporary tweak to traditional blues-rock, and the vocals—that makes him outstanding. I had heard some of Clark’s music off his earlier EPs, one of which was titled simply Gary Clark Jr. and the other, Bright Lights, which is the title of a song that also features on Blak and Blu, but the new album is what will deservedly get him some mainstream mileage.
I’d say Blak and Blu is a great album to discover Clark and then take a journey backward to check out his back catalogue of EPs and albums. Clark is a prodigy. He began performing at 12 and has played with the who’s who of blues-rock (Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow) and is slated to play at Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in New York City in April 2013. That fest is going to be one to die for—the drool-inducing line-up includes Albert Lee, the Allman Brothers Band, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, John Scofield, Robbie Robertson, Robert Randolph. Taj Mahal, Jeff Beck, Keb Mo and many others. Back to Clark. On some of his recordings that precede Blak and Blue, Clark plays unaccompanied acoustic guitar and sings. Check those out to see how hugely talented this young ‘saviour of the bliues’ really is.
If Clark is reviving the blues, a young West Coast guitarist, Ty Segall, is doing similar things with a genre far removed from the blues—punk and garage rock. At 25, Segall, based in San Francisco, has released five solo albums and plays with half a dozen other bands. Segall is a shredder par excellence. And a prolific one at that. In the past year alone, he has released three albums, the latest being Twins on which he plays every instrument himself. His music is influenced by early post-punk and garage punk bands such as Joy Division and The Stooges but what stands out is his extraordinary shredding abilities. I watched a couple of videos of Segall live—with his band, including the barefoot drummer, Emily Rose Epstein—and immediately got hooked. I’d recommend checking out Segall and his band performing Thank God For Sinners (off the Twins album) on the Conan O’Brien show in October. After that, you may want, as I did, to get all three of his 2012 releases—Twins, Slaughterhouse and Hair.
It’s been nearly two weeks since iTunes opened the doors of its music store to those living in India and here’s the thing: it’s a great deal. I’ve been spending the past few evenings hoarding tunes @ Rs12 a song (or less if you buy the whole album). I’m bingeing on Neil Young right now. I’d lost my copies of Rust Never Sleeps (1979) and After The Gold Rush (1970). I got nicely remastered versions of both. But what’s been on a continuum on my player is his latest with the Crazy Horse Band, Psychedelic Pill. What an album!