Monday, April 11, 2011

Austin's New Blues

Two artists that I've been listening to quite a bit lately, that I want to share with you, both emerged in recent years from the extremely competitive and very crowded Austin, TX music scene.

The first is Gary Clark Jr, who is an incredibly talented guitarist and singer who's music is rooted in the blues, but also finds its way into straight up rock n' roll. He's only 27 years old, but he's been well known in the local Austin scene for quite a while. In 2001, when when he was just 17, the mayor of Austin declared May 13th of that year to be Gary Clark Jr. Day. That should give you some indication of just how talented he was before his eighteenth birthday. Also, around that time, Clark caught the attention of local promoter Clifford Antone, who was the man that cultivated the careers of Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughn.

I came to know Gary Clark Jr only recently after purchasing the DVD of Eric Clapton's 2010 Crossroads Festival a couple months ago.  After watching Clark's performance, I was really amazed at the talent and youth of this guy who I'd never even heard of before.  He played so well that day that he was signed to Warner Brothers as a result and he's currently working on his major label debut for them. His name caught my eye again just a few days ago when I saw that he was listed as the final name on the lineup of the Chicago tourstop of Dave Matthews Band's 4-city Caravan tour.  That makes him yet another Mr. Irrelevant that I will be championing.  Hopefully he's not relegated to a time slot and stage where he won't be heard by anyone.

Please take a few minutes and check out the phenomenal performance of Gary Clark Jr (with Doyle Bramhall II) playing Jimmy Reed's 'Bright Lights, Big City' at the 2010 Crossroads Festival in Chicago. During the song, he repeatedly sings the lyric "You're gonna know my name by the end of the night" and I'm sure its no coincidence that this was the song and the line he chose to sing to the huge stadium crowd at Toyota Park who certainly did not know who he was before showing up.  He starts to really rip it up around the 3:40 minute mark, but let the slow build take its course.

The second act that I want to bring to your attention also came to mind recently because I saw that they were just added to a summer festival lineup. The band is Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears who only a few days ago were listed in the latest round of artist additions to this June's Bonnaroo in TN. [Note: They're also playing Coachella this coming weekend]. The Honeybears are an 8-piece band that mixes blues, soul, and rock n' roll to form a sound that can at times lean towards the Black Keys, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, or all three at the same time.  On March 15th, just a few weeks ago, they released their second full length album for Lost Highway Records, titled 'Scandalous', which in its first week reached #1 on Billboard's Blues album chart.  They also just played two sold out shows at NYC's Bowery  Ballroom where their set featured a cover of Howlin Wolf's "Evil".  I spent all of last Thursday and Friday listening to their new album. Check out their Sly Stone-sounding song from that new disc called 'You Been Lyin'.

Also, check out the band's official video for their 2009 song Sugarfoot, which sounds incredibly similar to the horn-driven groove that Trey has been cultivating with his Trey Anastasio Band over the last decade.  With Lewis's James Brown-esque delivery in front of the horns, he takes this group where Trey just isn't able to take TAB despite his best intentions.

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