Monday, June 20, 2016

Gary Clark Jr. - The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (2015)

Even if it's a bit cliché, I love it when an album opens with a track that suits its mission or the mission of the artist.  For Gary Clark Jr.'s 2nd album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, the song, The Healing, is perhaps the most prophetic way to lead off a most excellent record.

The Healing

The Texas native Gary Clark Jr. is perhaps one of the most under the radar Blues musicians active right now, mainstream anyway.  His first major label full-length album, Blak and Blu back in October of 2012 established him as a Neo-Soul, Blues, guitar playing master.  Who would have guessed that there was even a way to fuse that many seemingly related styles of music so well.  While that album brought Gary to our consciousness, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim from last year is the album that brought it all together perfectly.  

His influence didn't just become realized because he made a good album.  Back in Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy were both taken back by Clarks style and talent.  So much so that Clark became one of the youngest headliners at Clapton's Crossroads concert in 2014.

Cold Blooded

The Blues as a whole is a crazy genre of music that somehow over time has managed to evolve, unlike most music.  Sure music evolves all the time, rock in the 1950's differs vastly from the 80's and the 2000's  Blues is just a little different.  It's almost impossible for any form of music to maintain its roots, tell the same stories, and continue to be influenced by its originators all the while progressing to take on new elements from other sources.  Confusing right?  Consider R&B music, I only bring this up because of the recent death of Prince Be from the great 90's R&B duo PM Dawn, R&B in the 90's was beginning to become less about R&B and more about Hip-Hop.  R&B came from Blues and Soul, at some point in the 80's, let's call it the Luther Vandross era, R&B shifted away from the Blues and picked up elements of Jazz in its absence.  However, it wasn't until PM Dawn and the general rise of Hip-Hop in the 90's that R&B became what it is for the most part what it is today, Hip-Hop & R&B.  It's so blatant that most award shows actually categorize that as a genre.  Seriously.  The two couldn't and by all rights shouldn't be similar, but it's an evolution.  What does that have to do with Blues?  Well, everything regarding modern music comes back to Blues.  Whenever a new artist, particularly a Blues artist comes on the scene, a true Blues musician will play their music with the sound of their influences.  You'll hear Robert Johnson, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and others.  You'll hear blues rocker influences like Jack White, Jeff Beck, and John Mayer.  Here's where Gary Clark Jr. Comes in.  He's got the influence of Jimmy Vaughn and Eric Clapton and a style all his own.  The music that Gary Clark Jr. put out on this album while having shades of everything from Gospel to Hip-Hop to Blues to Rock, is ultimately a pure modern Blues exposition.

  Down To Ride

I was made aware of Gary Clark Jr. about 2 years ago while I on vacation in Chicago appreciating their Blues scene and of course, buying records.  At first, I didn't really love it.  I only had his first album to work with on mp3.  Up until about 2 weeks ago, I had actually forgotten him until I saw his performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where he performed a great version of Cold Blooded with Jon Batiste and Stay Human.  I immediately thought that it sounded familiar.  I used my trusty Google Music search, and sure enough, I had Gary Clark Jr. Tagged from back in 2014.  I figured this time that I should really listen to this newer album a bit more closely.  After about 3 listens, I bought this beautiful double 3-sided record at Exile on Main Street in Branford CT and I've been listening to it non-stop for days.  Partially because for whatever reason it came with 2 DL codes.    Regardless, this album is truly a must own for any fan of the Blues, Rock, R&B, and or Funk.  Here's the bonus about getting it on vinyl, remember what I said about it being a 3-sided release?  Well, check out the B-side of the 2nd record.  

Yeah but that etching tho!

Just go get it!  Get it now!

I'm thinking...  Who wants a digital copy of this album?