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October 19, 2012 / jhsaeger

Gary Clark Jr. Comes Up Blak and Blu In Debut LP

          When Gary Clark Jr.’s 2011 EP Bright Lights first came out, the work was accompanied by a tremendous amount of buzz. The 28-year-old musician was hailed for his skill as the next great axman to come from Texas. Many lofty comparisons flew around, including allusions to Eric Clapton, who had allowed Clark into his 2010 Crossroads Festival lineup. At the time the association was on point, Clark had showed himself to be very deft with a guitar, although his prowess with a six-string was significantly ahead of his songwriting. A year later Clark is set to release his first full album, Blak And Blu, where he will face the first major test of his recording career: can he craft a song, not just shred it?
            The answer to the question is as varied as the different styles of Blak And Blu. A record that seems to drift about without a particular focus, the LPcombines past work from Clark that was cut en route to his major label contract with Warner Brothers and material recorded for Blak And Blu. Clocking in at nearly 67 minutes in length, the album felt like a marathon to labor through at times, even though that feeling was interspersed with flashes of brilliance from the Austin native.
This particular aspect of the album reveals itself in the first two songs of Blak And Blu, “Ain’t Messin’ ‘Round” and “When My Train Pulls In.” An excellent pop track that was circulated well before the album is set to be released, “Ain’t Messin’ Round” blends Clark’s guitar and a horn section that brings the LP’s most up-tempo song to life and confirms the idea that there may be something here. Clark then nullifies that with the lengthy, bluesy jam of “When My Train Pulls In,” a seven-minute effort that first appeared as an acoustic track in his 2011 EP The Bright Lights. Later in Black and Blu, the guitar player also released a fully fleshed “Things Are Changin’,” another acoustic piece from the same EP.  
Another old reliable for Clark, the guitarist included the head-turning, “Bright Lights,” a song that introduced many to the Texan as the nominal centerpiece to The Bright Lights. Among the new work in the LP, noteworthy tracks include “Travis County” and the hip-hop sensitive “The Life.” The true attention-grabber of Blak And Blu’s new material is “Third Stone From The Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say,” a double-dip cover of Jimi Hendrix and Little Johnnie Taylor. Almost ten minutes long, the track contains the most blistering guitar work in the record and reinforces the notion that Clark is a god in that regard. As for his songwriting guise, this is an instance of a hung jury whose judgment is partially clouded by the multi-genre, hectic, and drawn-out style of recording.
            Gary Clark Jr.’s Blak And Blu will be available on October 23rd as a digital download, CD, and vinyl. A 15-track deluxe edition will be available on iTunes. 

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