Gary Clark Jr. is not the next Jimi Hendrix, no matter how much people want him to be.
The 31-year-old guitar virtuoso from Austin is also not going to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan. Or Buddy Guy. Or Prince, for that matter.
On his second studio album, "The Story of Sonny Boy Slim" (Warner Bros.), Clark uses elements from all those greats, but he is clearly building something all his own.
"Hold On" shows how brilliant that vision can be. He moves from a sweet falsetto to a more definitive one to declare, "I'm not out to steal your money. I don't want to take your time. I do deserve a little respect so I'm gonna get what is mine." Clark builds an uplifting, old-school soul song -- a lot like D'Angelo's recent album in sound, a lot like Kendrick Lamar's
"Alright" in sentiment -- and adds his own special signature, a searing guitar solo that echoes the combination of anger and determination that he outlines in his lyrics.
While Clark offers the blues rock we've grown to expect from him in "Stay," and adds a bit more of the Delta influence in "Shake," there are plenty of surprises here as well. "Star" is a Prince-ly slow burn of guitar funk, while "The Healing" drops in bits of gospel as well as hip-hop. And the nearly-eight-minute epic "Down to Ride" is a groove-driven experiment that combines some '70s-styled soulful vocals and the kind of unexpected rhythms that Frank Ocean or Miguel would pull out in their work, though Clark's scratchy, funk guitar is never too far from the focus.
"The Story of Sonny Boy Slim" converts all the potential Clark has shown since his flashy debut into confident, stylish pieces of soul and rock. With this, he has clearly arrived.
GARY CLARK JR.
"The Story of Sonny Boy Slim"
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Ready to tell his own soulful story his way.
Jess Glynne's voice is way more popular than her name, thanks to a string of hit singles including "Rather Be" with Clean Bandit. In England, she's already had five No. 1 singles, giving her the most chart-toppers ever for a female solo artist.
Four of those singles appear on her debut, "I Cry When I Laugh" (Atlantic), and taken together, they show why Glynne is on the fast track to stardom.
She has a powerful voice, though like most British dance-pop singers and unlike most American dance-pop singers, her delivery has little R&B in it. The sparkling "Rather Be" and "Hold My Hand" graduate from the Kylie Minogue school of sleek Europop. "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself" shows how well Glynne can handle even more complicated rhythms, while "You Can Find Me" should be her next dance-floor anthem.
Glynne stumbles, though, when she slows things down for the drippy "Saddest Vanilla," which somehow made the record, even though it rhymes "ice cream parlor" with "broke my heart, yeah." Perhaps Emeli Sandé could have appeared on something else? It's a rare miss in Glynne's otherwise hit-filled parade.
"I Cry When I Laugh"
THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE British singles sensation's sleek but uneven debut.