Gary Clark Jr. pulls out all the tricks on “This Land”

Trent Ryden
Staff Writer

PC: Trent Ryden

“The world is my buffett child and I’m just looking to eat,” sings Gary Clark Jr. on “Feed The Babies,” a new song off of his recent album, “This Land,” which was released Feb. 22.

It was in this same mentality that Clark used to approach his third studio album, experimenting with a little bit of everything.  

Clark, who has gained attention over the years for being a modern Era blues star who wields a guitar like no other, showed on, “This Land” that he can comfortably and confidently step beyond the Austin Blues roots scene from which he arose.

The story goes that “This Land” is part of a response to racism Clark experienced firsthand in the South. The opening self-titled track “This Land” addresses such attitudes with Clark heard singing, “I see you looking out the window/ Can’t wait to call the police on me/ I remember when you used to tell me/ ‘N***a run, N***a run!/ Go back where you come from!’”

On the album, Clark confronts several different emotions, as we hear him talk about dealing with lost love, heartbreak, relationship issues, loneliness, racism and the guilt of being an insufficient lover.

Several songs on “This Land” feature a diverse arsenal of sounds and multi-genre influences. In the song “Pearl Cadillac,” we hear Clark channel a Prince-esque sound, employing a similar song structure and instrumentation, utilizing sensitive and introspective lyrics about the hardships, disappointment and failed promises of love all topped off with a signature fuzz-laden guitar solo. All of this comes together nicely to form a contemporary classic rock ballad.

In the song “This Land,” we hear Clark feeling really comfortable with himself, shredding a heavily distorted blues guitar over a heavy bass and drums. The piece is a declaration, emulating feelings of anger, disgust and confidence, stating, “F**k you! I’m America’s son/ This is where I come from/ This land is mine/ This land is mine.”

On the second track of the album, Clark channels Lenny Kravitz, mimicking his signature distorted vocal sound over top of a screaming background guitar and a chorus of voices shouting, “What about us?”

In the song “I Walk Alone,” Clark sings in an intimate, breathy falsetto, similar to that of Curtis Mayfield. This song is melancholy and sentimental, as we hear Clark opening up about his insecurities in his broken relationship, admitting that he fears separation and loneliness as he croons, “I don’t want to be alone/ Please, please, please.”

“This Land” is proof that Clark is a well-rounded musician who is versatile and has a solid foundational knowledge of how to write a song, regardless of genre. He synthesizes reggae, heavy metal and R&B in the song “Feelin’ Like a Million.” In “Feed the Babies,” Clark dabbles with a funky bassline and organ that drives the tempo of the song, with subtle New Orleans-sounding jazz horns complimenting the funk bass riff he has going on throughout. While doing this, Clark never leaves his blues roots and still makes time for a solid blues guitar solo that acts as a creative bridge transition from the second verse to the repeating chorus outro.

A word to describe Clark’s project “This Land” might be restraint. Anyone who knows of Gary Clark Jr. knows that he can wail on a guitar like few others can. It is in his restraint of these go-to sounds that he impresses listeners in “This Land.” Instead of an intense, loud and impassioned guitar solo on every song, Clark opts for other, slightly less aggressive forms of expression. From soft and sweet ballads like “Pearl Cadillac” to lighthearted country pop melodies in “Guitar Man,” Clark effortlessly and proudly displays some of the lesser-known cards in his deck, showing everyone that he is much, much more than a one-trick pony blues guitarist, but that he is a versatile, multi-faceted musician.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

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