We’re calling it: In the rock ’n’ roll history books, Gary Clark Jr. will have two eras: before This Land and after it.
Just get a load of the fire and fury that opens the title track: “F**k you, I’m America’s son/This is where I come from,” he snarls. Clark’s rage is partially directed at his racist neighbor in Austin, Texas, who can’t seem to accept Clark’s sprawling 50-acre ranch, as well as a few experiences from his childhood. “I had a few situations down there with some racism, and some Confederate flags, and people calling me out of their trucks, all that kind of stuff,” he told Beats 1 host Zane Lowe. “I had a beat that I laid down but didn’t have any lyrics over it and it just came to me. I just went in there and fired off.” But it’s also, more broadly, aimed at President Trump for fanning the flames of racism across the American South. He’s pissed off, and finally speaking out.
This Land, which Clark produced himself, confronts these realities head-on, including stressful community divisions (“What About Us”), touring fatigue (“The Guitar Man”), and political activism (“Feed the Babies”). In an effort to find some common ground, he reminds us why we came to his music in the first place: its soulful, spontaneous spirit. The rallying wooos and rip-roaring guitars on the standout “Gotta Get Into Something” recall Stiff Little Fingers as much as they do Chuck Berry. And like any rousing punk anthem, it’s its own form of protest song: a thunderous, gritty alarm that dares you to sit still.