My favourite album at the moment is nine months old, so I’m rather late to the party (timekeeping has never been my thing you see) – although this party shows no signs of slowing.
The record was released in September 2015 but thanks once again to Jazz FM and their superior playlist I heard them play an album track one weekend and frantically Googled the words ‘I will shoot you down, in cold blood’ to bring the song to life (which admittedly would look really dodgy if someone poked around my search history).
The artist is Gary Clark Jr. The song was Cold Blooded. The album is The Story of Sonny Boy Slim and for the unenlightened, I’d strongly advocate you take a listen.
A bit of background stuff. Gary Clark Jr. is an American guitarist, singer and actor based in Austin, TX – the Live Music Capital of the World and a city I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with over the years by virtue of its rich music, culture and arts scene. My interest was further fuelled after watching episode four of the Foo Fighters documentary, Sonic Highways, which featured Clark Jr. and examined the foundations of Austin’s live music scene.
The polymathic Gary Clark Jr has been hailed as “the savior of blues” but also specialises in hip hop, funk, jazz, soul, country and garage rock to name a few styles. His breakthrough record was Blak and Blu in 2012 but it was the sophomore album and genre-spanning The Story of Sonny Boy Slim that shone a light on his accomplished guitar playing and indisputable cadence.
Known for magnetic live performances (he was awarded SPIN Magazine‘s Golden Corndog award for performing in more major North American Music Festivals in 2012 than any other musician on the planet), he has shared the stage with a dazzling array of musical virtuosos including Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King and Buddy Guy. In 2014, he worked with Foo Fighters on the track What Did I Do? / God As My Witness from their epic Sonic Highways album and was the very special guest of the band when they performed the track on Austin City Limits.
The Story of Sonny Boy Slim showcases Clark Jr.’s musical versatility and expressive voice, and is all laid-back melodies and killer guitar riffs that fizzes with substance and style. My favourite tracks are BYOB, Can’t Sleep and Shake (released as a trifecta complete with a super cool video trilogy), Stay and Our Love but I’ll let you discover your own.
On 26 June, he performed on the West Holts Stage at Glastonbury Festival and plays London’s Brixton Academy on 29 June for what will no doubt be an electric set. I’m gutted I won’t be there, but if anyone is going I’ll happily settle with living it vicariously through you.
On the album’s kickoff track, The Healing, Clark Jr. declares with intensity “This music is my healing” and then in the reprise he repeats the line but changes the word “my” to “our”. I’m a great believer that music can provide solace, an escape when things get tough. So, in these hugely turbulent times we find ourselves in with the country unsettled and divided you could do worse than listening to Gary Clark Jr. over a beer or two.
Let music be our healing.