Written by Dorica Santos
I first discovered Gary Clark Jr whilst watching a video of him, Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé performing a tribute to Stevie Wonder at an All-Star Grammy salute in 2015. What struck me about his performance was his unique, silky vocals and most importantly, his mind-blowing guitar solo. I mean, it was sexy as fuck. Since then, I’ve been jamming to his music in my bedroom, eyes closed, head bopping and a few attempts at the air guitar. Clark Jr has also shared the stage with many other talented musicians including Eric Clapton, B.B King and Eric Clapton, pretty cool right?
Personally, I believe that live albums are underrated and that artists should produced more of them, because it is more raw and honest than a studio album. As a listener, you develop a better connection with the artist and the songs. The 33-year-old musician is known for his fusion of blues, rock, soul and hip-hop. Despite the 22-track live album, Live in North America taking place in 2016, Clark Jr released the album on 17th March 2017. The set list contains a mixture of songs from his previous albums: Blak and Blu and The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. He also throws in covers including Jimmy Reed’s classic Honest I Do.
The album opens up with the track Grinder, taken from The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, which proves just how cool and in control he is as a singer. He doesn’t shy away from demonstrating his guitar skills by creating a duality that is both suave and stormy. The song has a rock/blues vibes to it, which is followed through into The Healing, where Clark Jr describes how “This music is my healing.” This line is emphasised with the dominance of the guitar on the track, as it is louder then his warm vocals.
Inevitably, there is a guitar solo on every track, all of which never phases to amaze me no matter how many times I listen to the album. One of my favourite tracks, Our Love, has the best vibes and perfectly proves how gifted this man is. The song starts off mellow and his strong blues/soul vibe to it, with the simple tempo and Clark Jr’s impressive high vocals. Throughout the track he gradually becomes more firm and harsh, which add the passion to the lyrics, “you are my baby.” The guitar solo, is gorgeous and simply amazing. To be honest, if there were no vocals and just the guitar, this track would still be my favourite.
Throughout his album, you can’t help but compare Gary Clark Jr to legends like Prince, Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross. Clark Jr succeeds in showcasing his knowledge of different genres, for instance, his country side comes out in When My Train Pulls In, as does his inner D’Angelo in Cold Blooded and Down to Ride.
In his last two tracks, Clark Jr lets us know that he is the real deal and that the blues is here to stay. With his trademark distorted sounding guitar solos and raspy yet suave vocals. Indeed, the album performed to a large audience, yet Clark Jr manages to create an intimate album, which simultaneously integrates from soft and soulful grooves to gritty distorted guitar solos.
Live In North America 2016 is all about the basics: Gary Clark Jr’s beautiful vocal range, a brilliant band and of course incredible guitar solos.
Listen to Our Love below, may seem long, but it’s totally worth it.