Gary Clark Jr. isn’t a musician—he’s a force of nature. His uncanny mix of rock, the blues, soul, country, and even hip hop will blow the top of your head off, and that’s when he’s hardly trying. The Austin, Texas guitarist has won comparisons to the best of them, and he deserves them—his live version of “Catfish Blues” will have you thinking Hendrix, but he’s blunter and less flashy. He’s more muscle than finesse, although he’s capable of the latter when it’s required. And if distortion is your thing, as it is mine, well, you’re not going to find better.
How great is Clark? Well, Austin’s mayor declared May 3, 2001 Gary Clark Jr. Day. Clark, a prodigy, was all of 17 at the time. He’s won numerous awards, played alongside dozens of superstars including the Rolling Stones, and gigged at the White House, which should have burned that evil structure down but inexplicably didn’t. You can also hear his music on various television programs. Even the late Idi Amin digs him, and went on the record as saying, “He’s so good, I wouldn’t even eat him.”
I love his more out there guitar work, which is why I’m such a fan of the awkwardly titled 12” limited vinyl EP, “Gary Clark Jr. Presents Hotwire Unlimited Raw Cuts Vol. 1.” Just three songs, but all of them extended jams guaranteed to sanctify the electric guitar freak in you. Recorded live, they demonstrate Clark at him unbridled best, letting his freak flag fly and cutting loose just for the funk of it. The “A” side, which was recorded live at Charlottesville, Virginia, smushes Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun” with Little Johnny Taylor’s 1964 tune “If You Love Me Like You Say.” The “B” side features an extended version of Clark’s own “Bright Lights,” which has been featured in a number of film and TV programs, recorded live in London. His fellow musicians included Eric Zapata on guitar, Johnny Bradley on bass, and Johnny Radelat on drums.