What a very strange album. I was introduced to Gary Clark Jr. through Booker T.’s Sound the Alarm, an album that is truly a sampler of sounds and styles, on which Clark Jr. was featured on “Austin City Blues.” I was quite surprised to find that Gary Clark Jr’.s album, Blak and Blu, is also a sampler album, which is much more difficult to understand given that it is by a single, talented artist. The variety on Blak and Blu isn’t always rewarding for the listener who comes to him from a work such as “Austin City Blues,” though.
Blak and Blu is infuriating, actually. Some of these tunes are absolutely brilliant, such as “When My Train Pulls In” and “Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say,” great guitar with frayed treble and raunchy feedback. Then there’s “The Life” with its electronic piano and auto-tune voice. It’s as if it is by a completely different artist, different era, different sensibility, different—definitely—talent. Certainly “The Life” is better suited to radio, to hit making, but it’s passing fluff, especially compared to the best this album has to offer. “Things Are Changin’” is also of that ilk, and both of those tunes are impossible to imagine as belonging with the best of Blak and Blu.
Blak and Blu ranges from the acoustic Delta blues of “Next Door Neighbor Blues” to regular old radio pop. In between those two extremes, though, are some brilliant, guitar-heavy tunes. This is one of those albums that best suits this iPod era; in the old days I would have had to lift the needle over several tunes I don’t care for to get to the ones I do love, thus the mixed rating.