Gary Clark Jr.The Story of Sonny Boy Slim(Warner Brothers)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars “This music is my healing,” sings contemporary bluesman Gary Clark Jr. on “Healing,” the opening track from his second major label studio release. As he showed on his previous outing, Clark is not here to recycle blues riffs or be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. Rather, he’s more interested in breaking down the blues, blues-rock and soul-blues boundaries in ways similar to how Jimi Hendrix reimagined and expanded the genre by giving it an acid-enhanced infusion.
The original line on Gary Clark, Jr. was that the young Texas guitarist was supposed to be the future of the blues, having been mentored by Jimmie Vaughan and Eric Clapton, but as his star rises, Clark has made it increasingly clear that his creative ambitions run a lot deeper than being the next hotshot guitar slinger. On his major-label debut, 2012's Blak and Blu, Clark demonstrated he isn't interested in following the path of blues traditionalists, and while there's plenty of great guitar work on 2015's The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, this is by no means a conventional blues album.
Burgeoning blues star Gary Clark Jr. cranks the volume to the max on his new LP, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, and unleashes numerous thunderous riffs in the process. Opening track "The Healing" begins with a gospel a cappella intro that draws on the sound of the Mississippi Delta. But Clark quickly breaks free of that mould, and follows that intro with deeply contrasting arena-ready guitar solos and a fist pump-worthy "yeah yeah" chorus.
On his 2012 major label debut, Gary Clark Jr. was hungry for all the music he could get his hands on. He rose up out of Austin as a certified bluesman and killer guitar player, sure, but Blak and Blu also pulled funk, soul, and molten garage rock under its wide roof. What that album lacked in cohesion it made up for in spirit and a whole pile of hot licks.
Gary Clark Jr.'s versatility is both blessing and curse. The Austin ace's 2012 breakthrough album, Blak and Blu, shuffle-mixed through blues roots; raw, Hendrix-channeling solos; glossy, modern R&B; and points between, but never quite figured out how to connect the dots. Three years later, his studio follow-up does — mainly by focusing on his unfuckwithable guitar.
The 21st-century guitar hero goes all smooth. Grohl’s a fan. Clapton’s a fan. Shit, Obama’s a fan. Clark’s seductive blend of blues, hip-hop and vintage rock has scored him favour with virtually everyone, including Classic Rock. No pressure for album number two then.... ADVERTISINGinRead ….
What's a guitar slinger to do when the thrill of a solo fades? In the case of Gary Clark Jr., you follow a double live LP heavy on six-string fireworks with a one-man-band studio album that establishes a more distinctive vision by putting the axe in a support position. Self-producing himself locally at Arlyn, Austin's great blues-guitar hope downplays the lead-centric style that made him a hot commodity at festivals. Instead, Clark pivots his tunesmithery around lubed rhythms and soulful vocal melodies, evoking decades of R&B without forswearing the blues.
New York Daily News (Jim Faber) Opinion: Excellent
GARY CLARK JR. “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim” (Warner Bros.) 4 Stars IT’S NO mean feat referring to the past without skidding into a retro rut. But Gary Clark Jr.’s new album offers a master class in the art. Due to his central role as an ace electric blues guitarist, Clark and his music can never fully escape the cliches of 1960s classic rock.
Gary Clark Jr. makes a promise on his second studio album, “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim.” “Hold on, we’re gonna make it,” Mr. Clark sings like a Southern-soul crier on a tune called “Hold On.” The lyrics unspool in a rhythmic patter, referring to bitter losses, “the whole world gone crazy.” But the track ignites only during his guitar solo, which starts in the background and soon fills the frame.