The Story of Sonny Boy Slim is the third studio album from Gary Clark Jnr and the follow up to his major label debut black and blue. Where black and blue tried to be all things to all listeners covering blues, funk and hip hop Sonny Boy Slim is far less disjointed and a more cohesive and fluid set. It's not an album with a set narrative as perhaps the title suggests perhaps more a musical statement of intent.
Clark sets his course on the opening track The Healing a tribute to the power of the blues, a sound that frightens and perplexes in equal measure to the joy and healing that it brings.
I got something in motion
Something you can't see
It requires devotion
From those who truly believe
This is something you can't touch
This is something you feel
For some it's too much
For some it can heal
Grinder is down and dirty, Lo fi with Hendrix esqu guitar squalls and a haunting intensity reminiscent of the great man. If your looking for a lyrical thread Clark has a focus on the dark edges of society and the turmoil facing many communities in the United States.
Star has got that psychedelic soul groove pioneered by Sly Stone. Clarks greatness lies in what to play how to create a soundscape that doesn't necessarily require pyrotechnics. Our Love comes out of the streets of Memphis, with some spine tingling Hammond work. Church is stripped back musically but Clark's proud and emotive voice fills the space.
I was taught to be patient
I was taught to be kind
But I unwind
Hold On sets a strutting tone of defiance, against the odds a better day is coming. Clark dips into the Curtis mayfield bag circa Superfly for this one. I Can't Sleep is a great slab of funky disco a Saturday night burner. Shake is an obvious nod to the past musically sounding a little like howlin wolf with some brilliant slide work from Clark.