A glance at Gary Clark Jr.’s career to date reveals some striking credentials, including performances alongside Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Sheryl Crow to name but a few. From such an impressive musical history the 29-year-old Texan offers Black and Blu, his debut label release with Warner Bros. Ltd. It’s an accomplished album that borrows from a multitude of genres; one moment you’re listening to tumultuous, psychedelic rock and next you’re enjoying a mellow R&B number reminiscent of 1980s hip-hop. Nevertheless, every track remains steeped in bluesy melodies and pinned down by Clark’s honeyed vocals. Unlike most of the songs’ multiple borrowing of styles, the first single release, ‘Numb’, leaves little doubt of its main musical influence.
Tearing into the silence, a scuzzy electric guitar riff and steady, heavy beat set the scene for a track laden with hard rock and 1960s nostalgia. Enter Clark’s voice to restrain the fuzz-laden clamour of drums and guitar, channelling the noise into submission with hypnotic lyrics and some sexy, soulful vocals. Just when you’re getting comfortable (or maybe a little bored) an old-school guitar solo goes into overdrive on the amp and rips into the latter half of the song to carry the melody to its end.
A simple song replete with repetition, both lyrically and musically, I question the decision to front the album with such a track, especially when Blak and Blu boasts so many fresh ideas where multiple musical influences bounce off one another within a single song. In comparison, ‘Numb’ is a pretty formulaic exception that barely touches on the diversity of Clark Jr.’s musical repertoire. If you’re looking for an evocative homage to the heady, guitar-wielding days of Hendrix, ‘Numb’ is all yours. But if you’re seeking something brand new, the rest of the album is well worth a listen.