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Gary Clark Jr. finds success with 'Blak and Blu'

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

Anyone who has seen Gary Clark Jr. in concert likely isn't surprised that every show on his domestic tour has sold out.

Everyone knows excitement about Clark's "rock 'n' soul" sound has been building as quickly as pressure in a shaken bottle of champagne. That's why Clark's most recent release, "Blak & Blu," blew ahead of releases by higher-profile artists, debuting squarely at No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.

"I took blues, blues rock and R&B and was able to combine it all in one [record]," Clark said of the October release. "I wasn't able to do that on the last ones, so these were experiments."

It's a fair bet that those experiments stemmed from the best of the best. After all, the Austin-born and raised Clark has been playing guitar since he was just 12 and was guided into the business by club owner Clifford Antone, who also launched Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan. Before long, Clark was playing with Jimmie Vaughan and other big-name artists. In 2010, he played the Crossroads Guitar Festival with B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Steve Winwood and other luminaries.

Onstage
Gary Clark Jr.
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW
Info: Sold out at press time, but tickets might be available through resellers; 877-435-9849; 930.com

From there, Clark's career is a blue of successes, including a "Best Young Gun" designation from Rolling Stone, a collaboration with Sheryl Crow and another with Alicia Keys, a White House performance with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy and a guest gig with the Dave Matthews Band.

Throughout the year, Clark slipped songs from 'Blak and Blu" into his various sets at musical festivals, including FloydFest, and the crowds reportedly went wild over them.

The songs on the album include 12 originals and a 13th that is a cover of Little Johnny Taylor's "If You Love Me Like You Say/Third Stone From the Sun," a complete reworking of the song using Jimi Hendrix's riff reinterpreted by Clark.

But for all the star power surrounding Clark and his music, his conversation makes it clear that he follows his own musical path. This album included listening to and learning from the music of his idols, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry and others.

"It's kind of a journey, past, present and future coming together," he said. "The constant is blues. That's how I rationalize it."

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