Genre-crossing musician Gary Clark Jr. shows his versatility on This Land | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Genre-crossing musician Gary Clark Jr. shows his versatility on This Land 

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click to enlarge Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr.

Nick D'Agostino

Good luck slapping a label on Gary Clark Jr. The Austin native won a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance in 2013, but his music cuts across genres, including blues, rock, and hip-hop. In the 2015 Rolling Stone mini documentary Gary and Eve, Clark says he once imagined following in the footsteps of a soulful group such as Boyz II Men but found himself drawn to the rebelliousness of rock ’n’ roll. After he and his friend Eve Monsees won a school talent show with their version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy,” the two spent their evenings playing at Austin’s music clubs while their high school classmates tackled algebra homework. Clark decided to skip college to pursue a music career (to his parents’ dismay), and in 2010 his bet paid off: Eric Clapton invited him to join his Crossroads Guitar Festival just outside Chicago. Since then Clark has released five major-label albums, appeared at Lollapalooza (he’s on the bill for the third time this year), and opened for the Rolling Stones. He even played for the Obamas at the White House, and in 2013 Rolling Stone labeled him “the Chosen One.” He’s not yet a household name, but with a guest spot on Saturday Night Live in February and bookings on various late-night talk shows, that could change soon. Clark’s latest album, February’s This Land (Warner Records), showcases his broad range: on the soulful ballad “Pearl Cadillac” he channels Prince with his stripped-down guitar work and falsetto singing, while on the title track he opts for heavy psychedelic guitar, reggae-inspired grooves, and lyrics that rage at life as a Black man in Trump’s America (“I see you looking out your window / Can’t wait to call the police on me”). At this show, he’ll perform tracks from This Land as well as some older material (and maybe even a Beatles number)—and he’ll definitely continue to defy cliches.   v

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