By Staff Writer Sawyer Pollitt.
Texan musician Gary Clark Jr. released his latest album This Land on February 22, 2019.
It offers more of the soulful blues and rock mix that he has come to be known for. On this album he draws upon his years of experience in the field to break away from traditions of the genres and deliver something that is new yet familiar.
Coming in at 1 hour 15 minutes, this album is chock full of too much content to go over song by song. Not every track on this 17 song project scratch the itch for this reviewer but the highlights far outweigh anything mediocre, and nothing is less than “good.”
Beginning with the eponymous title track “This Land,” which was also released as a single, Clark is able to set the mood and feeling of the rest of the album with a fantastic opening track.
Traditional blues motifs are accentuated by more modern sounding electronic elements and vocals that are nearer to rap than anything else deliver a powerful message about African-American history.
The songs “Feelin’ Like A Million” and “Gotta Get Into Something” are fine examples of how Clark is able to blend blues with other genres, reggae and punk in the case of these two tracks. “Feelin’ Like A Million” is a groovy reggae infused track that has lyrics and a flow that feels modern and, when coupled with more traditional instrumentals, feels very refreshing.
“Gotta Get Into Something” is a frantic and messy guitar heavy romp that does well to shake up the feeling of the album up to this point. It breaks up the moderate tempo of the past several songs and injects extra energy and fire to the already passionate yet relatively mellow first section of This Land.
Something I found to be special about this album is that every song seems to stand on its own outside the context of the completed work.
Sometimes a song will only hold up when consumed as a piece of a larger pie, but most of the tracks on This Land could be listened to in a vacuum and still be quality.
Stepping back from the individual songs and looking closer at Gary Clark Jr. as a musician, one can see both a talented guitarist and vocalist.
His playing has been endorsed by music legends like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn and the same quality found in those players can be found in Clark.
Clark provides expressive playing that can convey tender emotion in simple musical notes that can still explode in fiery riffs and solos.
Clark’s vocals are as varied as the songs on This Land. He can jump from a crunchy bluesy style of singing on “Dirty Dishes Blues” to something that wouldn’t seem out of place on a modern R&B album with tracks like “I Got My Eyes On You.”
It is important to note that he never compromises his unique delivery and style although he is able to switch things up.
After listening to the entirety of This Land I feel comfortable giving it an 8 out of 10.
The only thing keeping it from a 9 or a 10 is that while Clark was able to deliver a lot of direct hits, there are several tracks that fall just a little short of great.
Fortunately, if blues, rock, and even hints of reggae are your forte then this album won’t disappoint.
If you’re looking for something that is purely old school blues then you’ll probably find a couple of tracks that really hit the mark, but the more experimental aspects may put a traditionalist off.
All in all, this album deserves at least a cursory once-over from anyone even remotely interested.