Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr. was one of the first blues artists to make a major national breakthrough since fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan three decades earlier. Born in Austin, Clark discovered music when he saw Michael Jackson's Bad tour at age four. He was hitting the clubs by his teens and became known for intense live shows; his usual stomping ground was Antone's, the club that launched the careers of Vaughan and his older brother Jimmie (Clark occasionally sat in with the latter). Clark had a solid local following by the time he turned 20 in 2004, and released his first indie album Trouble the following year. He got big-time attention soon after, scoring and costarring in John Sayles' movie "Honeydripper" in 2008, and in 2010 he sang on a Sheryl Crow album and played Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival. Comparisons to Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix were now piling up, but Clark was also drawing from hip-hop and modern R&B. Both came to the fore in his Warner Brothers debut, 2012's Blak and Blu, which also drew from the punk-blues sound of the Black Keys along with traditional blues and gospel. The followup The Story of Sonny Boy Slim was even more eclectic, tracing the history of black music through blues, soul, funk and rap; and downplaying his now-celebrated guitar work in favor of songwriting. Each of these studio releases was followed by a live album that brought some of his blues covers (Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed) to light. Each of these was a commercial success, with the two studio discs going into the Billboard Top Ten. A metallized cover of the Beatles' "Come Together," drawn from the "Justice League" (2017) soundtrack, became a rock-radio hit in 2017. Clark made numerous high-profile appearances including with the Rolling Stones onstage in Boston in 2013 (they played Freddie King's "Goin' Down" together). 2019 brought his most topical album, This Land, a loosely conceptual album about black experience in the Trump era. The title song, which incorporates Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," was inspired when his white neighbors called the police on him. The album was widely praised and entered the Billboard Top 200 at Number Six; getting further attention when Clark gave a fiery performance of the title track on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC 1975- ) in February 2019.