ACL Review: Gary Clark Jr.

Homecoming for Sonny Boy Slim could’ve gone three hours

’Twas a Friday night for wide-brim hats, facial hair, and guitars hemorrhaging fuzz.

Photo by Gary Miller

“You’re gonna know my name by the end of the night,” challenged blues mensch Gary Clark Jr. in set opener “Bright Lights,” the chord-chopping 2012 breakout for the Austin-born bluesman. It’s a disingenuous boast in 2015: Every person gathered before the HomeAway stage knew exactly who he was.

It proved a powerful start nonetheless for an hour’s homecoming before thousands of homies.

From there, the guitar-slinger and his trio brandished three different shades of the blues: Near-rockabilly juke joint busters like “Shake,” from new sophomore studio LP The Story of Sonny Boy Slim; hot-buttered soul ranging from hip-shakers “Ain’t Messin’ Around” to Shuggie Otis-style crooners à la “Cold Blooded”; and unabashedly Hendrix (“When My Train Pulls In”). Clark and company were models of fire and skill. For one acclaimed with six-string prowess, the boss was unafraid to let second guitarist King Zapata get in some fiery lead work.

Giving equal weight to older material and Sonny Boy Slim’s more soul-inflected groovers, Clark Jr. presided like few musicians of his years are capable. One hour and 10 songs hardly felt like enough. He could’ve played for thrice that and no one would've complained.

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Gary Clark Jr., ACL Fest 2015, Shuggie Otis, Jimi Hendrix

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