“He’s the future” – Barack Obama on Gary Clark, Jr.
Unless you’re a megalomaniacal jackass, President Barack Obama usually doesn’t have many pointed words for you as a musician–unless, of course, you’re Austin, Texas, guitar maestro Gary Clark, Jr. If that’s the case, then he’s got the above to say about you and your new album that drops on Tuesday, Blak and Blu.
You see, you’re the future. You’re the next in a long line of illustrious ax-men who wield a six-string sledgehammer to pulverize rock ‘n’ roll-drunk festival crowds. You will change the game, man, through something new, unique, EXCITING–unless, of course, your riffing is a millenial dedication to rock ‘n’ roll icons of yesteryear.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And let’s be honest, President Obama was probably just paying a nice compliment to Clark, Jr. But it’s hard to be “the future” when what you’re doing isn’t that revolutionary. Which calls into question how we perceive artists to be ground-breaking.
Disregarding Blak and Blu’s forays into John Mayer-Land (“The Life,” etc.), it’s essentially a cut-and-dry blues-rock album. Now, those takes on blues might range from a Hendrix and Little Johnny Taylor cover (nine-minute ground-scorcher “Third Stone From The Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say”) to “Travis County,” which NPR accurately describes as “Chuck Berry-ish rock ‘n’ roll,” but they all derive from the same people: Berry, Hendrix, Robert Johnson–all bluesmen or early rock ‘n’ roll pioneers.
If this is the future–something revolutionary, new–then Joey Bada$$ is on the same trend-setting plane in Hip-Hop. It’s all been done before, and maybe that says more about where rock ‘n’ roll’s at than anything else. You can pinpoint when something’s fresh in Hip-Hop (Watch the Throne) or R&B (The Weeknd), but modern mainstream rock ‘n’ roll (which Clark, Jr.’s seems to strive for) is a regurgitation–if not exact facsimile–of the past.
Again, sh*t still kicks ass, even if Clark, Jr. sounds scarily similar to The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on several tracks. But no matter your politics, let’s disagree with the POTUS and conclude that Gary Clark, Jr. isn’t so much the future as he is a welcome portal to rock ‘n’ roll’s past.
Pre-order your deluxe copy of Blak and Blu over at iTunes where you can also stream the album in full before purchasing.