For a good while, anyone who’s held a Gibson SG, anyone who’s played a Fender Stratocaster, has at least known that Gary Clark Jr. is a hell of a guitarist. Since he came on to the scene, his blues riffs and searing licks have seeped into rock music and made him a name revered by anyone who picks up the instrument. Knowing that Calrk Jr. is a shredder is one thing, placing him only into that box is another. With This Land, Gary Clark Jr. transcends what you think you’ve known about him, and takes his sound to a whole new stratosphere. Mixing rock, blues, R&B, soul and hip hop; Gary Clark Jr. sets himself apart from anyone who picks up a guitar by looking at what rock music can be without limited himself to any one particular ideal.
The opening title track “This Land” is an incendiary remark on American race relations where Clark Jr. reclaims this land for all. The guitar work alone, aside from the lyrics should make any fan of his music pleased. But the sorcery in this album comes with each song that follows the opener. On “What About Us” Clark Jr. goes full throttle rock god, on “I Walk Alone” he adds a falsetto vocal and almost channels the likes of Curtis Mayfield while still keeping his roots in tact. He even steers the ship into reggae on “Feelin’ Like a Million,” and he does so in a way that sounds natural and without any posturing.
The album is an exercise in exploration, showing that Gary Clark Jr. is comfortable in playing whatever style he wants, and he does all with an ease unlike any other modern day performer. The old school rock vibes of “Gotta Get Into Something” has punk touches with early rock n’ roll swagger, “Low Down Rolling Stone” has an epic feel, like he’s calling out to anyone who hears him and “Don’t Wait Till Tomorrow” has Clark Jr. touching on R&B and soul like he’s ready to headline a tour alongside Maxwell.
But fans of the guitar slinger don’t get left out here either. As exploratory as the album is, Clark Jr. doesn’t stray from laying down the riffs. “Feed the Babies” is straight blues rock with a falsetto soul, “The Governor” keeps the Southern touches in its approach, and “Dirty Dishes Blues” has that Delta feel that Clark Jr. can play better than anyone else attempted to do as such since BB and Lightnin’ were still performing regularly. Although, as solid as these songs all sound, the stand out for us was “When I’m Gone,” where Clark J. takes his guitar prowess into sixties soul and sounds as close to the late Sam Cooke as we’ve heard since our first Sam and Dave album. Clark Jr. is doing his sound his way, and lucky for us, his barometer for what works is right on point.
You can stream This Land on all streaming sites, you can purchase it in all digital store fronts, or you can pick it up on physical formats directly from Warner Bros. Records. Gary Clark Jr. is on tour starting March 09 in Miami Beach, FL at Filmore Miami Beach at the Jackie until September 29 in Los Angeles, CA at the Hollywood Bowl. A complete listing of his upcoming tour dates can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Frank Maddocks.