Vinyl Vlog 086

Saturday, 27 June 2015

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into Gary Clark Jr.’s Live double album.

Listening to Gary Clark Jr.’s Live album on vinyl, listeners will find themselves suddenly overcome by a wave of nostalgia. Images of Mick Jagger jumping next to a jackass (as he did on the cover of Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!) and Dylan at Royal Albert Hall, KISS shouting it out loud on Alive, At Budakan, Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps and The Who’s Live At Leeds – classic albums all – spring to mind, and it only seems logical that the drab, monochromatic cover of Clark’s live effort should stand among them. Live has that air, that sound and that feel; the performance captured marks time because every rotation feels like it’s history in the making. Such a claim may sound like an overstatement to those who haven’t heard the album, but those who have will just nod quietly – they already know and agree completely. Live albums come along all the time but live albums like this one do not.

The old school vibes about Live are apparent even before the first note of any song on the album gets heard. Here, listeners have four sides of vinyl to work through (because, just like in the Seventies, none of the songs are short), but sitting next to their turntables so as not to let the mood of the album lapse when it’s time to flipp/change the proverbial discs isn’t necessary. There is a methodical movement along through this running that listeners will find compelling from the second “Catfish Blues” opens Side One with silence and then just crowd sounds at first, but then the guitarist starts laying out a swinging, searing blues progression which will get hearts racing. The sound of that guitar (sounds like an Epiphone Casino or a Gibson ES-330, but I can’t tell which) is truly a bit of magic; a little sonorous, a little angry, a little sad and ready to spit in the face of whosoever might do it wrong, that tone will furrow the broughs of listeners and curl their lips into an appreciative sneer. Backed by the solid rhythm section knocked out by drummer J. J. Johnson and bassist Scott Nelson, the song swings and hits listeners hard in the jaw; they’ll have been won whether they wanted to be or not.

…And the hits just keep on coming from there. Pulling largely from Clark’s most recent studio album, Blak and Blu, the songs swagger with a well-won confidence and well-honed chops. Standouts like “Next Door Neighbor Blues,” “Don’t Owe You A Thang” and “Numb” (on LP1) and “Ain’t Messin’ Round,” “If Trouble Was Money” and “Bright Lights” (on LP2) all stand tall and defiantly against staid blues conventions in that, while they don’t break the rules exactly, they do add some new heat to the mix which has been sorely lacking in the blues over the last several years (the original core of Fat Possum brought it back, but mortality has been sapping that strength).

After “When The Sun Goes Down” sizzles its last and closes the album, listeners will find they’ve been well and truly won by this album. The way it played and the songs along the way may feel a little blurry, after the fact, but those who have played through Live will know they bore witness to something rare but awesome. This Texas fire will have touched them and there won’t be any going back.


Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine – Gary Clark Jr. – Live – [CD review]

Live is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

Comments are closed.