For someone most people I’m sure aren’t too familiar with, Gark Clark Jr. has been around for longer than you might think, he just hasn’t been the main attention. Playing guitar for acts like B.B. King, Foo Fighters, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Dave Matthews Band, it wasn’t until he played for Alicia Keys and her tweet about his upcoming new album Blak & Blu, that Gary Clark Jr. took the spotlight for himself for a change, as well as his signage with Warner Bros. Records. But that was all back in 2012, and while Blak & Blu proved to those that didn’t already know that he was a fantastic guitar player, it didn’t necessarily pull through on the songwriting aspect of the material as well. This is where, three years later, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim prevails.
Now while the peak chart positions of both records are fairly equal, with Blak & Blu pulling slightly more ahead, it doesn’t change my opinions that The Story of Sonny Boy Slim was able to achieve what Blak & Blu could not. Despite the title however, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim is not a concept album in terms of a “story” as the title suggests, but more of a “scenic look” at life in, what I’m going to guess is Austin, Texas, where Gary Clark Jr. is from, but probably more just of the Southern United States in general. Though lacking a story arc, the record is still very cohesive in the aspect of a “scenic look” and capture of a setting/emotion/life style, much what Dr. Dre’s Compton promised but in my opinion didn’t deliver upon.
Right off the bat with “The Healing,” it’s clear that the songwriting aspect has improved around his guitar prowess. While the lyrics on some of the tracks can be a bit corny or maybe even a bit calculated, he’s able to pull it off with enough finesse that keeps it through. But that’s just a comment for some of the tracks like “Star,” “Can’t Sleep,” or “Shake.” My favorite track is easily “Wings,” where it’s just so simply put together and natural feeling that it all just clicks for him.
The whole thing about Gary Clark Jr. is that no one is going to question his ability to perform amazingly with the guitar, so it essentially becomes unimpressive at times when it’s the sole focus. It’s that whole idea of, “okay yeah I’ve seen that, now what else can you do?” mentality that permeates the entertainment industry. He shouldn’t have to do anything more than show us how amazingly he can play guitar, but if he wants to be the all-around singer-songwriter artist, he’s got to do it all. On The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, Gary Clark Jr. shows us he has more to prove than being a fantastic guitar player, something he never had to do, but that I’m glad he did.