Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gary Clark, Jr.: "The Future of the Blues"

That's how Clark was introduced at the recent "Red, White and Blues" concert (videos here) at the White House (it aired on PBS on February 27), which also featured the likes of B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck,  and Keb' Mo', among others.  Clark performed "Catfish Blues":

Clark is a 28-year-old Austin native who counts among his influences Hubert Sumlin (for whose memorial Clark played recently at the Apollo), Curtis Mayfield, Nirvana, Outkast, Michael Jackson, and Joni Mitchell.  My introduction to Clark's music was via "Bright Lights," the title track from his EP, which knocked me out upon first hearing.  Initially it sounded like a new Black Keys song to me.  But the guitar playing was way beyond Dan Auerbach's and more akin to that of Jimi Hendrix.  Below is a video of  Clark's thrilling performance of the song at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010. 

In an interview with GuitarTV Clark talks about his setup--he uses an Epiphone Elitist and a Fender Vibro-King.  He owns all of his own publishing and songwriting.  And he mentions that his album should be finished and released sometime in September.  

Clark started playing guitar at age 12, did small local gigs around Austin, and eventually caught the attention of Antone's owner Clifford Antone, who helped promote Clark, who then began playing with such musical icons as Jimmie Vaughn.  Clark even got an acting gig:  he starred as a young electric guitarist in John Sayles' 2007 film, Honeydripper.  In April 2011, Rolling Stone named Clark "Best Young Gun."  

Clark was in the studio at KCRW in Santa Monica on February 17; watch that here.  And he'll be playing Coachella in April.  I'd heard he'd done some private gigs while he was in L.A., and it looks like he was at Bardot here in L.A. at some point, based on the EP's trailer.  But the rest of us Angelenos will just be singing the blues until we get the chance to see Clark live.

If 2011 was the year of Anna Calvi for me, 2012 is definitely the year of Gary Clark, Jr.  The future of the blues is now.

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