There was a time when the electric guitar was king―the tool of choice that transformed mere musicians into rock stars. Everything that represented “cool” rested on those six strings, yet the power of the tool proved too much for many. The electric guitar is unlike most instruments in that it demands sacrifice; it’s a beast that must be tamed by the trained hands of its master. Although the “golden age” of the instrument has faded into the haze of the ‘60s and ‘70s, its legend prevails.
An Ode to the Electric Guitar, as Played by Gary Clark Jr.
To master the electric guitar, a unique symbiotic relationship is required, where the musician and the instrument become one. All the guitar rock virtuosos of lore displayed this deep connection. It often left them drunk with power, stumbling down the path of addiction and egotism.
In the modern age, the guitar’s reign gives way to countless other outlets. As in the ‘70s, when the last chords of fuzz rang out from amplifiers only to be replaced by electronica, the music scene of 2013 is dominated by drum machines and the sounds of synthesizers. Amid the precise rhythms, though, a familiar sound cuts through the zeitgeist in the form of Gary Clark Jr.
The blues guitarist emerged out of Austin, Texas, cut from the same cloth as Hendrix and Clapton, yet with a fresh modern perspective. Much like his forebearers, Clark Jr. started playing at a very young age, as though he was drawn by the static cling of electric pulses passing through a guitar. He began playing the renowned blues clubs of Austin, and at the ripe age of 17, he’d already won local awards for his ability.
Clark Jr.’s talent is rare these days, and people immediately responded to his classic playing style, conjuring fond memories of the masters that came before him. It was only natural that he’d join legends like The Rolling Stones, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King.
With that said, Gary Clark Jr. exceeds the allure of simple classic rock nostalgia with his own take on blues rock. The thick churning of his guitar on the breakout hit, “Bright Lights,” adds a grungy feel, as Clark glides over it with smooth vocals in the same vein as Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. It’s a sound so contagious that it earned him a major record deal on Warner Bros., which led to 2012’s studio album, Blak and Blu.
The album peaked at #6 on the U.S. Billboard chart, showing that the demand for blues and the sounds of the electric guitar are still very much culturally relevant. Gary Clark Jr. now makes the jump to arenas, with an upcoming tour backing Kings of Leon. It’s a long way from the clubs of Austin, yet the pairing of Clark Jr. and stadiums feels undeniably natural.
The electric guitar still possesses the power to fill a massive space; there’s something about the kinetic energy of a Fender Stratocaster reverberating through the airwaves that invigorates you. It’s as though the guitar perfectly recreates the passion of the player. When certain artists pick the electric guitar up, something comes over them―the instrument transforms them into something greater, and for that reason alone, rock and roll will never die. For now, it rests safely in the calloused fingers of Gary Clark Jr.
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Article by Nicolas White