Rarely does an artist explode onto the music scene with the force and impact of a comet. But when it does happen — as it did when 26-year-old singer-guitarist Gary Clark Jr. delivered an incendiary debut performance of his song “Bright Lights” at Eric Clapton’s 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival — the result is magical. Funky, hip, and badass, Gary Clark Jr. is a rocking soul man for a new generation.
Weaned on John Lee Hooker, Lightnin Hopkins, and T-Bone Walker, Clark fuses his deep blues influence with a love of classic hip-hop and contemporary soul. His voice weaves between a melodic lilt and a seasoned blues howl with his guitar licks dancing and dodging between and behind the beat as if the essence of Snoop and Dre loom in his head by way of the Mississippi Delta. The virtuosity Clark displays, and the tone he rings from his cherry-red Epiphone Casino guitar, put most modern rock shredders to shame.
In 2010, Clark was the only young newcomer to be selected by Eric Clapton to perform at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, where he performed with Doyle Bramhall II and Sheryl Crow. A DVD of the show, released last November, led to Clark’s signing with Warner Bros. Records Clark’s singular talent has also attracted a bevy of artist support, including accolades from Sheryl Crow, Citizen Cope, Damian Marley, Ron Wood, and Questlove. As the latter recently tweeted after witnessing a December performance at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl: “I don’t think y’all under- stand the greatness that is in front of you. Gary Clark Jr. is kickin’ ass and takin’ names.”