It’s been a busy, busy day. I was up early and teaching a “mental toughness” class this morning at the St. Catharines YMCA followed by a long, shitty ass run that really went nowhere. Not one of my finest moments that’s for sure. I did get out on my bike afterwards with HRH for a fun ride and that was pretty awesome and now I’m cooking tonight’s dinner of potato gnocchi with vegetables, scallops and shrimp. Helping set the ambiance this evening is the ‘Live‘ album by Gary Clark Jr.
Texas guitar ace Gary Clark, Jr., who at his best sounds like nothing so much as the past and the future of the blues, has been compared to guitar icons like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. His playing is a powerful and inspired mix of blues roots with some contemporary soul and hip-hop touches, but it remains the blues always, and the blues is perhaps even more central to his sound than it was for either Hendrix or Vaughan.
Personally, I’m a bit of a noob hen it comes to Clark’s catalog of work but his ‘The Story of Sonny Boy Slim‘ album definitely one of the best things I heard back in 2015 (click HERE for my other favorite albums from that year). Since then I’ve been on a bit of a quest to find other albums but, that has been a bit difficult particularly when I heard his live take of ‘When My Train Pulls In‘ on the ‘Chef‘ soundtrack.
Yeah, I know…I watched a John Favreau film.
Anyway, Clark’s first major-label debut, 2012’s ‘Blak and Blu‘ (which I am still yet to find), stretched the blues thing a bit thin in places, and it only partially resembled his live sets, which were wild, gritty, and often beautifully elegant surveys of electric blues, with Clark’s solid originals settling nicely with vintage covers, all with no frills and gimmick-free. Clark, for all the press about it, has never really been about being clever and innovative with the blues, but prefers instead to stand for its strong tradition, and just bring what he brings to the table without a whole lot of fuss. That’s what his live sets are about, and this double-disc live album, recorded during a 18-month-long tour in 2013 and 2014, reveals a clearer and more in-focus look at what Clark offers.
Mixing select blues covers with standout Clark originals from the ‘Blak and Blu‘ album, this is a terrific introduction to a fine young guitar player, songwriter, and singer. Opening with a thunderous version of Robert Petway’s ‘Catfish Blues‘, this set never falters through Clark originals like the Chuck Berry-ish romp ‘Travis County‘, the timeless-sounding killer ‘When My Train Pulls In‘, and the monster Jimmy Reed homage ‘Bright Lights‘, and seamlessly blends in covers of Lowell Fulson’s ‘Three O’Clock Blues‘ and Albert Collins‘ ‘If Trouble Was Money‘ and ‘If You Love Me Like You Say‘, the latter of which is paired with Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone from the Sun‘ in a striking ten-plus-minute medley.
Oh, and definitely do NOT miss the incredible fuzz blues of ‘Numb‘.
That shit is killer/
Clark closes things out with a gentle, sparse, and striking version of Leroy Carr’s ‘When the Sun Goes Down‘. This is an impressive live set, with crisp playing and sharp sound, and, best of all, it lets Clark play the blues and shine with energy, passion, and a good deal of grace while staying free of the bells and whistles the studio affords. In Clark’s case, he doesn’t need bells and whistles. He plays the guitar, really good guitar, and if this is indeed the past and future of the blues rolled into one, then the blues appears to be in really good hands.
Honestly, this is now one of my favorite Da Blues records.
Even Kelly commented how much she liked which, truthfully, I’m a bit surprised at seeing as how I figured it would just end up making her feel all “tense” but, hey, the chick digs her fuzz blues.
What a lucky guy I am!
Oh, and the gnocchi and scallops were amazing.
Thanks for asking.