Gary Clark Jr’s roots go deep at muddy Fuji Rock Festival 2013 in Japan

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All photos copyright Christopher Johnson and Globalite Media. To buy or use these photo, please contact editor@globalitemagazine.com

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words and photos by Christopher Johnson

I never saw Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn. But I saw Gary Clark Jr. at Fuji Rock.

He went deep. He makes the guitar sing, or rather, he lets it sing, in gorgeous tones.

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Songs start out as somewhat familiar blues numbers: a launching pad for spell-binding guitar heroics. It’s rare to see so much invention and technical mastery, done with ease.

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Clark is certainly working up a sweat, in the Fuji Rock mountain rain. The music, however, is soothing, like a massage for the soul. We experience redemption and inspiration. He takes blues guitar to its deeper religious level, where we discover the higher truths in music.

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Referencing “Third Stone from the Sun”, he pays homage to Hendrix, then takes Hendrix to a different space in the Field of Heaven.

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What’s more amazing is that he’s sharing stage with his buddy Zapata, a gifted guitar player in his own right. In this way, it’s like Hendrix and Vaughn, in the same band.

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To reach the iconic status of Hendrix and other guitar gods, he’ll have to take serious risks, and produce a body of original songwriting that connects with audiences beyond the guitar-loving crowd.

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A few years ago, when I asked Eddie Kramer, who recorded Hendrix at his Electric Ladyland studio, what made songs hit, he thought for a moment and said: “Pleasing to the ear. Familiar enough, but with distinct characteristics. Something that taps into mass consciousness at that time.”

It’s not easy to achieve. Many guitar gurus in the genre are understandably word-shy, since their guitars can do the talking.

Clark might turn out to be a case in point, or he might develop into something stratospheric.

He seems to have no limits. He can play anything, whatever he feels, and do it with grace and majesty. It’s a great starting point, and we can only hope to hear more from him for years to come.

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All photos copyright Christopher Johnson and Globalite Media. To buy or use these photo, please contact editor@globalitemagazine.com

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