Gary Clark Jr., Our Native Daughters, and Nakhane
Welcome back! Before we dig into the new releases from Gary Clark Jr., Our Native Daughters, and Nakhane, there are some honorable mentions to dole out. If you’re not on Twitter, you missed the announcement that I had nothing to post for last week. I pored over many new albums over that weekend and nothing excited me in the least. It wasn’t until later in the week when I finally found something I liked. If you didn’t know about Copeland’s Flushing, now you do. It’s definitely worth several listens.
This week, however, the honorable mentions go to Desperate Journalists’ In Search of the Miraculous, Dream Theater’s Distance Over Time (What is its rate? Sorry, physics joke.) , Adia Victoria’s Silences, And The Kids’ When Life Is Over, and Yola’s Walk Through Fire. Honestly, there were many others I could add to the list. It’s like the music marketers/distributors decided to make up for last week’s black hole of suck with so many good albums this week. Let’s get to this week’s features…
Gary Clark Jr.: This Land
Gary Clark Jr. just released his fifth album, the 17-track This Land. From the opening strains of the title track, Clark signals the tone of this 1:12:27 long musical adventure:
Paranoid and pissed off
Now that I got the money
Fifty acres and a model A’
Right in the middle of Trump country
I told you, “There goes a neighborhood”
Now Mister Williams ain’t so funny
I see you looking out your window
Can’t wait to call the police on me
Well I know you think I’m up to somethin’
I’m just eating, now we’re still hungry
And this is mine now, legit
I ain’t leavin’ and you can’t take it from me
I remember when you used to tell me
It would be easy to let that track and those lyrics spotlighting racism in America stand as the only message Clark wants to impart on the listener. He’s not interested in the easy route. Musically, he moves from the angry guitar riffs on This Land to blues, to angry guitar riffs, to reggae, to angry guitar riffs to a very Prince-like guitar (and falsetto) on Pearl Cadillac to angry guitar riffs… you get the idea. I was exhausted after just five tracks into the album – not because the music was tiresome or the lyrics mundane. Rather, like a well-weathered route salesman, he’d covered so much territory.
There’s tremendous energy in these tracks, so the change in style is a welcome palate cleanser. As I mentioned above, many of those tracks are fuelled by anger, but lyrically, Clark isn’t only interested in anger. Much of his lyrical output focuses on love and the change in musical style helps underscore love’s multifaceted nature. If this album doesn’t immediately hit where you live, wait a little bit and try it again. It gets better with repeat listens.
Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters
For Our Native Daughters’ latest project, Songs of Our Native Daughters, I need to change things up. Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell and Amythyst Kiah comprise the members of Our Native Daughters. Technically, it’s not a band name per se, rather it’s the project moniker for the four banjo-playing collaborators. The project was inspired by James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son. There’s so much more to the project, however, that warrants discussion. Rather than attempt to deconstruct the message this recording bears – not just for the sake of women or the African-American culture, I will defer to the Smithsonian’s album description. This album is fantastic!
Nakhane: You Will Not Die
We already know Gary Clark Jr.’s This Land comes in at 17 tracks and 1:12:27 duration. Nakhane‘s You Will Not Die is his “hold my beer” response. This album comes in at 18 tracks and 1:13:33. Don’t say I don’t try to give you significant bang for your musical buck. If you’re like me, you were unfamiliar with Nakhane before this past weekend. Investigating the artist reveals a history of death threats stemming from his sexual and artistic choices. That doesn’t interest me, but if you want to read more, you can go here. As I wrote to a friend recently, great music knows no gender, sexual orientation, political leaning, age, race, or religion. It exists as it is. On its own merits.
This album surprised me as I found myself singing along on the first listen. I should clarify that I didn’t actually know any of the lyrics. There’s such an emotional resonance that I found myself singing whatever words I thought were going to follow. Usually I wasn’t even close, but that wasn’t important. What was important to me was to resonate the emotion forward. Not your typical singalong fare, right?