Foreword / Gary Clark Jr. at Terminal 5
David Burke, Contributing Writer, Foreword / Afterword, October 27, 2015
This week you’re well advised to make another trip to Terminal 5. Grammy-award winner Gary Clark Jr., is playing Wednesday night in support of his second LP, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. Clark Jr., the guitar hero from Austin continues his rapid ascent, feathered and plumed in accolades from every imaginable critical body and music authority on both sides of this Mississippi. Grammy nominations for both Best Rock Song and Best Traditional R&B performance in 2013 begin to explain Clark’s sound, and his range. In addition to his win in the latter category, he ran the table at the Austin Music Awards, with eight wins for the 2012-2013 season.
A brief perusal of the so-sayers say so will yield a veritable mess of opinions about who Gary Clark Jr. is, where he hails from, who he sounds like, and what his trajectory and influence will look like over a mutually agreed upon long and productive career. Here’s the thing, Gary Clark Jr. is a truly enlightened guitar player, but he’s not Jimi Hendrix, no matter how many others tell you otherwise. He’s not Stevie Ray Vaughn, either. And I’m guessing he’s not trying to be. A potentially iconic player, no doubt, but Gary Clark Jr. is more like Tom Petty. He’s a living music anthology. He can play the blues to beat the band. He’s a soulful singer, and an honest songwriter, and I’ve seen him live twice before. Most recently I saw him open for Kings of Leon and Madison Square Garden and he killed it. When he plays, I get lost in the rapture of guitar virtuoso. I stomp and clap to the appropriate offerings and I absolutely enjoy myself. Make no mistake about it; Gary Clark Jr. is the real deal. And when I say he’s not Hendrix, I mean that as an absolute compliment. He’s his own musician, and his sound draws from a massive range of genres. He’s like Petty in that his work is synthetic and panoramic, and I see him embracing that with The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. He pulls elements of blues, or rock, or R&B, or hip-hop, or country, and generates a broader and deeper sound than adherence to any singular genre could allow. Consider “Down to Ride” from The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. At its core, it’s an R&B slow burner, with an impelled rhythm and the necessary love in conflict lyrics. Add the funk flare guitar flourishes, build the story via country and hip-hip veins and polish it off with an atmospheric and driving instrumental outro that conjures 80’s pop a la Bruce Hornsby or even Prince, and then, just for good measure, build up and out with some spare and tasty blues licks. And that’s one song. That’s Gary Clark Jr.
So what are you in for this Wednesday? Or Friday for that matter? Clark Jr. and Terminal 5 added a second show on the 30th for your convenience and, more realistically, because the demand for Wednesday was so high. Well, aside from the guitar heroics, Gary Clark Jr. has a lovely, soulful voice. He plays with a choice collection of musicians, and he likes to offer an interpolation rich setlist with plenty of fluidity from song to song and he absolutely rocks. Pre-show homework should include “Church,” “Star” and “Down to Ride” from The Story of Sonny Boy Slim and “Numb,” “When My Train Pulls In” and “Next Door Neighbor Blues” and from his 2012 debut, Blak and Blu.
That’s the word this week boys and girls. You’re welcome.
Foreword / Afterword
October 27, 2015