Tag Archives: Warren Haynes

A Prodigious Talent – The Blues of Gary Clark Jr.

7 May

I first heard of Gary Clark Jr. when he released his second EP Bright Lights back in the summer of 2011. It caught my ears and I immediately picked it up and shoved it onto my iPod as quickly as possible. He was a musical force to be reckoned with and it wasn’t difficult to recognize that. Since then, Gary Clark Jr. has done exactly what you would expect a blues wunderkind to do – tour festivals extensively and play with some of the greatest blues performers ever. Not a bad idea at all.

Gary Clark Jr. fits into a small grouping of modern-day blues guitar prodigies. Let’s add Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Joe Bonamassa to this list as well. If we wanted to forget about age barriers let’s add Warren Haynes to that, for, while he is not young (well, I mean, neither is Bramhall), he still tirelessly performs today (and he is incredible and he was a prodigy). Interestingly, Gary Clark Jr. reminds me a little of Warren Haynes. Why? Well, the man is a triple threat. He can play rhythm and lead, sing wonderfully, and knows how to take a backseat to other performers on stage (an important trait to possess).

But do you know who Gary Clark Jr. reminds me of the most? His guitar tone is saturated with rich distortion and hooky riffs and rhythms much in the manner of Jimi Hendrix, another guitar prodigy, who just understood how to make the guitar sing. Now, please, in no way am I saying that he is equitable to one of the greatest guitar players to ever pick up the instrument. I am just saying that his style reminds me of Hendrix. And, actually, if Hendrix stayed alive, I think he would have moved into a realm that Gary Clark Jr. is beginning to explore – sticky, humid blues with creative distortion and grunty vocals.

“Bright Lights,” the song that represents this exploration, was featured by the NFL for the 2012 draft. It was a good choice because the song does talk of “Bright Lights” and since the draft was at Radio City Music Hall in NYC the selection was intelligent. It also reminded me of Gary Clark Jr. and I went on a bit of a listening binge – mostly live performances though because he just doesn’t have enough songs yet.

The next few years are going to be crucial. “Bright Lights” seems to suggest that Gary Clark Jr. may be able to do something that not many have been able to accomplish in the last 40 years, bring blues music into the tempting arms of popular pop music while maintaining the gritty roots of the song. “Bright Lights” does this perfectly. Check out this performance of the song from the Crossroads Festival in 2010. By the way, that is Bramhall II in the yellow shirt providing some extra lead depth.

The song is, as Steven Tyler would say, “crazy good.” The hard-hitting rhythm, heavy on the downbeat, mixes with Gary Clark Jr.’s soulful vocal that, if it wasn’t for his guitar skill, would be his strongest attribute. The song levels out for a while with this pounding riff and the bluesy vocals, but, it doesn’t last that way for long. The guitar of Gary Clark Jr. cannot be contained for long. His lead work is insane! The skill he expresses in his ability to command the guitar like it his voice and not his instrument is extraordinary. It is extraordinary in every sense of that word. Not many guitarists can even smell that talent. The tone is scary. When I first heard this song I dropped everything I was doing and stared, just stared. Check out the echo of his guitar around 3:30 – 4:00 into the song. Like, seriously! You actually feel the guitar may explode, he is so proficient.

Can he do traditional electric blues?

Check. Did you think he would have any problems with this? The wa-wa solo around 1:45 is a thing of beauty. It is eccentric, even alien, but that is what he can do. He takes what you expect from blues and manipulates it with his quick playing and distortion effects.

He is super talented and well-known right now. Wait a year or two and a widely-released LP and he will be known across America like Derek Trucks.

Tangled Up in Blue: The Bands

8 Sep

The Beatles were the most popular rock band throughout the 60s, and many believed their reign of supreme rock band could not be challenged. Well, I’m going to give you two bands that definitely could put up a legitimate fight.

Led Zeppelin wasn’t just a band of musicians, but a conduit to the dark side.  They didn’t have to tune down to ungodly low notes or play loud or fast for their music to be bad ass because they weren’t mere mortals.  Jimmy Page wasn’t a guitar god, Robert Plant didn’t sing like an angel, John Bonham didn’t play drums like a sissy and John Paul Jones’ bass lines weren’t stairways to heaven.  Page was a demon, Plant howled like a Viking warrior, Bonham played like he was at war with his drum set and Jones’ bass lines were chutes to hell.  Check out How the West Was Won for 10 minute drum and guitar solos from some of the most talented musicians who ever lived!

The Rolling Stones are one of the few bands that could compete with Zeppelin and the Beatles for popularity.  In fact, the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll band was formed as an anti-Beatles (despite singing Lennon/McCartney songs on their first few albums). They contrasted the Beatles’ finely tailored suits and mop-tops with rugged and dirty looks.  Their image, however, wasn’t just a front.  Their music was the blues with attitude and I don’t mean Tony Robbins keep a positive outlook on life attitude.  It was at times mean (check out “Bitch” on Sticky Fingers) and at times tender (check out “Angie” on Goat’s Head Soup) but they always played with Attitude with a capital A.  The Stones are recognized for their sustained popularity, but I want to bring up a band that was just as good.

Faces played a similar Honky Tonk blues style and they played it exceptionally well, albeit for lesser years.  Check out pre-pop Rod Stewart on vocals and Ronnie Wood (future member of the Stones) on guitar as they play a no-nonsense song about a one night stand.

The Stones and Zeppelin sold millions of studio records in their rise to popularity, but it was a live album that skyrocketed the Allman Brothers Band to stardom.  Unlike the previous bands, the Allman Brothers’ blend of blues was purely Southern and helped to create a Southern Rock sound emulated by many.  That album, Live at the Fillmore East, features two of the greats in the line of talented Allman Brothers Band guitarists.  Duane Allman’s slide guitar is unmatched and the interplay with Dickey Betts defines early Allman Brothers’ sound.  Current guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks are no slouches either.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey guys, Matt here. I just wanted to give Aaron Shipper, the author of this post, a full Music Court welcome. Aaron, a blues aficionado and lover of good music, has joined the small editorial staff at the Music Court and will be bringing you music posts in his “A Different Drummer” category two days a week. So, everyone please make Aaron feel at home!

The Allman Brothers At The Beacon – A Review

23 Mar

Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks - Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images North America

When you go see a band like the Allman Brothers, a band that plays with effortless technical proficiency, it is easy to make the assumption that you will hear excellent music. There is no doubt about that. But it would be a wide misconception to believe that the music will not be tinged with passion. Even with several dates at the Beacon Theatre, The Allman Brothers vary set-lists and demonstrate true fervent blues playing, without jeopardizing what made them a great band in the first place, pure talent.

The Beacon Theatre is a perfect venue for the Brothers. It maintains the feel of an old city playhouse with its intricate wall designs and large statues. The venue shoots you back in time. The vintage playhouse juxtaposed wonderfully with the Allman Brothers ode to blues that became a pervasive force in Tuesday night’s set-list.

The concert began with “Statesboro Blues,” a blues staple written by Blind Willie McTell turned into a huge Allman Brothers hit. The band came out immediately on fire with a wall-of-sound that combined Gregg Allman‘s voice with the three-man percussion brigade and Trucks and Haynes’ guitar work.

This was my first time seeing the Allman Brothers and I was unsure how Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes balanced the skill that both have. Haynes played rhythm for most of the night, but shared some solos with Derek on extended jams. Haynes’ voice never tired through the show, which was good because Gregg Allman faded as the show went on.

Allman’s lack of participation in the show was my only complaint. He sat behind the piano/keyboard for the entirety of the show and sang only a few times. Allman does have the best voice of the bunch. When he did call and response with Haynes, Allman won the vocal chops battle. Luckily, Allman picked an excellent band to support him, and they did for the majority of the show.

The band played nine songs during the first set, including a jazzy rendition of “The Weight” which included Steve Molitz on keys and Rich Robinson on guitar. Molitz, for those who don’t remember, was actually featured on this blog before with his side project Headtronics. He is an excellent keyboard player and it was awesome to see him live. (Check out that post here: https://musiccourt.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/open-your-mind-for-headtronics/)

A classic rendition of Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” dominated the first set. It was not only an ode to a favorite blues musician, but, it displayed the wide range of musical talent that the band shares. Joining the Allman Brothers on stage was the Juke Horns, a group of talented horn players. They provided a wave of sound that complimented the backbone guitar riff. It was a bluesy rendition that blew the top off the Beacon.

The jams were on target all night and Trucks did an excellent job leading guests into solos and then whipping them at the solo game. During a lengthy jam, Trucks paired himself against Haynes and guest guitarist Tom Guarna in a three-way guitar duel, that Trucks won hands down. He is an astounding slide guitarist and a worthy successor to Duane Allman, who was honored along with Berry Oakley at the closing visual slideshow.

By the way, Derek Trucks totally teased “Norwegian Wood” in his solo for “Jessica” which was hilarious and awesome.

The Allman Brothers at the Beacon

22 Mar

Catching an Allman Brother’s show at the Beacon Theater in New York City is more of an unpredictable event than a concert. While the band does entertain with music, the set-list through the Brother’s string of 13 Beacon shows constantly changes and you never know who will join them on stage. The band, consisting of Gregg Allman, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Jaimoe Johanson, Marc Quiñones, Oteil Burbridge, is tremendously talented. Every member has an immense musical library in their head that allows them to effectively jam through numerous complicated blues songs effortlessly. The Allman Brothers are the band to see if you want to witness musical proficiency.

Tonight will be my first time seeing the Allman Brothers and I am not sure why it has taken me so long to buy tickets for a show. Perhaps it is because it seems like they will always be a staple for their double-digit concert tour in New York City. No rush if they continue coming back. But, I do also feel that the band is just simply underrated and understated. All classic rock fans know the Allman Brothers, but only few dedicated fans truly know their music. Unlike the Dead, the Allman Brothers have a smaller following even though their music is jam blues/country rock at its finest. The untimely death of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley did not effect the band immediately. They were still one of the biggest draws. The band absolutely fell apart in 1976 because of conflict, therefore not perpetuating their music until they were reformed by Allman in 1989. This 13-year lapse did not help their popularity, and because of this they are still somewhat flying under the radar and not getting the credit that they absolutely deserve.

The last time the band played on March 22 at the Beacon Theater was in 2007. The last song of set II was “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” one of my personal favorites. Here it is for your listening pleasure:

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