Fire Note Says: There is no denying it – Gary Clark Jr. can play!
Album Review: Gary Clark Jr. has exploded since his 2012 Blak and Blu album put him on the map with its bluesy rock that was both soulful and energetic in the same guitar movement. After a non-stop tour that has only made him bigger with his engaging stage presence, Gary Clark Jr. has finally released his much anticipated new album, The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim.
I will tell you upfront that the new record doesn’t have anything as catchy like “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” or “Bright Lights,” that drove Blak and Blu. Without obvious singles, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim needs to stand alone on its style, groove and substance. It has style, as the guitar work on later track “Stay” is just what you signed up for and is a true highlight on the record. The almost eight minute closer, “Down To Ride” is a great journey as its laid back synths interchange with the on target and sharp riffs to create a rolling wave that gets in your head. “Hold On” is another powerful track that puts the struggle of race on the front page with lines like “Another mother on TV crying because her boy didn’t make it,” but offering encouragement through scorching guitar work and the chorus that is simply “Hold on – we’re going to make it.”
At 54 minutes, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim runs a little long. Some tracks just don’t have the quality songwriting that you expect from Clark Jr., which holds the album back a bit. You combine that with its similar mid-tempo pace and you start to feel a “filler” type vibe raise its head several times. Now, there is still plenty to air guitar about here and Clark Jr.’s talent is on full display. If you have been a fan, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim will keep you engaged. Also, if you have seen Gary’s scorching live show, you know that some of these songs will come to life on stage. This still may not be the album that will make Gary Clark Jr. a household name but it for sure is one step closer.
Key Tracks: “The Healing” / “Stay” / “Hold On”
Artists With Similar Fire: Curtis Mayfield / Gil Scott-Heron / Buddy Guy
Gary Clark Jr. Website
Gary Clark Jr. Facebook
Warner Bros. Records
– Reviewed by Christopher Anthony