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CD review: Gary Clark Jr.’s ‘Blak and Blu’

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Annie Zaleski

The Details

Gary Clark Jr.
Blak and Blu
Three and a half stars

In recent years, 28-year-old Gary Clark Jr. came to his “blues guitar hotshot” tag honestly, through high-profile live collaborations with Alicia Keys and appearances at festivals like Bonnaroo and Crossroads. Still, the Austin musician’s engaging full-length major label debut, Blak and Blu, is more than a blues clinic.

Clark demonstrates versatile range by dabbling in sultry soul (“Things Are Changin’”), John Legend-ish R&B (the title track) and ’50s-style slow dancing (the falsetto-filled “Please Come Home”). Still, these songs aren’t quite as vibrant as the moments on the album when Clark unleashes his formidable guitar skills and gruff rock snarl—from the horn-driven soul strut “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” and the smoldering “When My Train Pulls In” to the nasty Southern-rock rumble “Glitter Ain’t Gold (Jumpin’ For Nothin’)” and the blazing psychedelic sprawl “Third Stone From the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say.”

During songs like those, the album captures the spiritual transcendence of Clark’s fiery concerts.

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