May 22, 2019

Gary Clark, Jr. Explores Racism in This Land

posted on: Thursday March 7, 2019

by Daniel O’Neill ’21 A&E Staff

For the past decade, Gary Clark, Jr., has struggled to balance his message as an artist with his powerful blues soul. He is known by many as a blues guitar wizard, but his problem of matching his talent with a narrative has finally come to an end. With the release of his latest album This Land, Gary Clark, Jr. has risen to new heights as an artist. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

In 2012, Clark released Blak and Blu, and in 2015 he released The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. Both albums were regarded as dynamic works in the modern blues-rock community, and Clark, Jr. has not stopped since. His live shows are known to be, by some,  nothing short of electric and ambitious. That is why this most recent album, This Land, is considered his best work, as he has combined the energy of his live shows with his talent as a songwriter. 

This Land is a huge step forward for the blues guitarist. Half of the album tells the stories of his life as a husband, his rise to success as a different kind of artist in the 21st century, and his life as a father. The other half of the album takes a drastic turn; Clark, Jr. calls for social justice in a time of racism and abuse. He shows his growth as an artist as he writes powerful songs with political opinions hidden in between the lines of the lyrics. 

Besides his lyrical change, Clark, Jr. shows improvement in production as well. His previous two albums reflected his dynamism as a guitarist: long skillful solos and copious rock driven riffs with underlying blues tones. This Land replaces those guitar masterpieces with more of a focus on bass, synthesizers, accents of other genres, and overall growth in the use of production. Clark, Jr. puts a modern twist on 80s funk and reggae with a twist of blues-rock to create a powerful narrative about his life in the south. 

What seems to be the most important part of this album for Gary Clark, Jr. is his creation of a full album that tells a story, not a mismatched group of songs. He showcases his personality as an artist, as he has done through songs like “The Guitar Man” and “Low Down Rolling Stone,” on This Land by presenting his well-known first-person narratives about his life backed by the classic blues-rock guitar sound that he is known for. Essentially, Gary Clark, Jr. demonstrates his growth as a musician in this new album. 

With 17 tracks on This Land, Clark, Jr. presents many thoughts on his current situation in a society plagued by racism and social change. 

He takes this new album as a way to show the strides he has made as a creative artist. Clark, Jr. attempts to connect with his fans and prove to people that there is more than just guitar in his musical repertoire. Gary Clark, Jr. proves he is not only a modern day guitar wizard, but also a blues-centered artist who has found a way to tell stories that beg for change in the land of the free.

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