Gary Clark Jr., in the space of a short career, has risen to define modern blues rock. His debut EP, 2011’s Bright Lights, was instantly popular, demonstrating a blend of traditional and modern blues. Three albums and a Grammy win later, Clark continues down this path, and with pleasing results.
This Land opens with the title track, a combination of synthesised chords and wailing guitar. Clark’s ability to take the blues by the collar and pull it into the 21st century is here instantly realised with this surprisingly effective combination, and a political message to boot.
The album, whilst certainly blues, is remarkably uplifting in places, with tracks like ‘Gotta Get Into Something’ and ‘Feelin’ Like a Million’ exuding Clark’s confidence and charisma. Tracks lie these also make it feel reductive to call This Land a blues album, with songs swaying into soul, hard rock and even reggae.
This sometimes comes at the expense of consistency however, with some tracks feeling slightly out of place. There’s also the fact that the entire album is 17 tracks long, and that can sometimes be felt. Some tracks, like the meandering ‘Don’t Wait Til Tomorrow’, can feel as though they hurt the album’s pacing.
These are small gripes however; This Land is far more characterised on the whole by its skillful and catchy songwriting. Tracks like ‘Pearl Cadillac’ and ‘What About Us’ are full of energy and soul in equal measure. It would also be criminal not to mention the powerful guitar playing that Clark employs throughout, with solos that could quite possibly knock off your actual socks.
On the whole, This Land is a remarkable achievement in the tricky and often unsuccessful art of genre-blending, with tunes that will stay with you long after you’ve heard them.