Gary Clark Jr. is the real deal.
He graced the stage at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sept. 30. He showed the crowd why he is the real deal by displaying an astounding vocal range and seductive blues-inspired guitar-playing. His humble demeanor and infectious charisma help showcase the enormous talent that lies within the soul of Clark.
Clark hails from the fertile musical grounds of Austin, Texas. He grew up singing in the choir with his sisters and playing guitar-influenced blues, soul and jazz music. As a teenager, he caught a break when Clifford Antone had him play at his famous club in Austin with Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin Jr. and others.
Years of collaborations and grinding through the Texas club circuit gave him a place to develop his vocal range as well as his guitar tones. He has played around the world, raising eyebrows and garnering praise from adoring fans and seasoned musical insiders.
This night, Santa Barbara was all about Clark. He opened the show with “Bright Lights,” a gritty story of New York. During the night, he played many styles of blues and soul, keeping the crowd entertained and on their toes.
“Travis County” is an old-time 12-bar blues jam with a rockabilly vibe. Then he played some wicked slide guitar on the down and dirty blues tune “Next Door Neighbor Blues.”
One of the highlights was when the band played “When My Train Pulls In.” The melodic soulful groove allowed room for Clark to build and explode through several dynamic leads.
During the course of the show, he used many different styles of distortions to convey his haunting, soaring and gripping tones. These tones truly identify who Clark is as a musician. He plays with emotion and creativity accented by his 6-foot-4-inch stature, endearing facial expressions and trademark flat-brimmed hat.
Throughout the night, he used several guitars to create his signature tones, including a Gibson SG and Fender Stratocaster. He used an Epiphone Casino that gives him a lighter hollow-body-type tone for some of his softer acoustic style stuff. On the song “Please Come Home,” he used his falsetto voice and his truly tantalizing ability to take it high and hold it like a true crooner.
Clark is the real deal, and Santa Barbara witnessed it firsthand. His star is still on the rise, and we can expect more great music from this talented artist from Texas.
— Steve Kennedy is a Noozhawk contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.