If there is a knock among conservative listeners on the always-roving Gary Clark Jr., in particular with 2012’s major-label debut Blak and Blu, it’s that he can be governed his distractions. They say his albums lack a consistency of tone, that they have a tendency to feel patched together. Make no mistake, however, Clark consistently presents coherent thoughts. He’s just not one for being tied down with tidy genre considerations.
Unfortunately, the same criticisms will no doubt follow his forthcoming Live, due on September 23, 2014 via Warner Bros. and boasting a whopping 15-song tracklisting. If you’re still looking for a peg to put Clark in, this first-ever concert set undoubtedly will be filled with a striking variety of odd-sized holes.
Take “When My Train Pulls In,” the shatteringly prescient advance song. Clark draws a portrait of unrelenting frustration for those trapped in an economic downturn, even as he unleases the kind of torrential, brain-freeze licks that can only be compared to Jimi Hendrix as his guitar-immolating best. The two, at least when Clark is in this kind of focused rootsy groove, share a propensity for distorted, searingly modern urban bluesmaking — and, if that was all there was to Clark, he might be more popular with the old-school set.
As “When My Train Pulls In” opens up into a double album promising plenty of musical left turns and pedal-mashing excursions, however, you can bet they’ll be those among them who remain utterly befuddled by what Clark is doing on Live. Me? I call shotgun.