The Austin Chronicle

Local X Factor

By Chase Hoffberger and Thomas Fawcett, June 6, 2014, Music

Gary Clark Jr.

Blak & Blu: The Mixtape

Austinites brag about witnessing Gary Clark Jr. shred Continental Club happy hours back in the day, but there's another place you could spot the lanky local bluesman before he became an international guitar god: local hip-hop shows. More than simply a six-string virtuoso, Clark's long dabbled in beatmaking – popping up on multiple releases by River City rapper Phranchyze – so dropping a free mixtape shouldn't come as a shock. This nine-song cycle leans on the soul and R&B sides of his full-length debut for Warner Bros., 2012's Blak & Blu, and the results are more focused than the long player because of it. A stripped-down acoustic take of "Things Are Changin'" plays out better than the glossy album version, while the aptly named "Soul" offers a bittersweet ballad that somehow missed the final cut for Blak & Blu. Both showcase Clark's smooth, ever-improving vocals, and he's well within his league alongside singers Bilal ("Numb") and Alice Smith ("Please Come Home"). Mississippi bulldog Big K.R.I.T. knuckles up a guest verse on the title track and muddies a remix of "When My Train Pulls In," and Talib Kweli assists on Jimmy Reed homage "Bright Lights." The Mixtape may not be what Clapton heads were clamoring for, but it's exactly who Gary Clark Jr. is. (6pm, Sunday)


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