Not much can be said that would do justice in explaining Texas guitarist Gary Clark Jr’s paramount third studio LP, This Land. Many songs and albums have been released which call out Trump’s MAGA-hat administration, whether from ska punks Stacked Like Pancakes (“45”), or even alt-vets Green Day (“Troubled Times”) and Anti-Flag (“Racists”). But arguably the fiercest comes from blues musician Gary Clark Jr, who finds himself transitioning from someone once afraid to make any sort of grand sentiment, into someone speaking harshly towards racism in America on This Land, an album that spans multiple genres. And the Blues musician finds himself, not only speaking out more, but finding himself in more of an overall music universe than he was in on both prior releases.
After being inspired by an incident with a new neighbor who couldn’t believe a young black man could own a large ranch just outside of Austin, the title track channels Clark Jr and his anger towards this casual racism. “Run, n****r, run,” the chorus spits. These are the words he hears “right in the middle of Trump country.” It’s angry, and it’s so good. Although the album opens with this fiery and furious title track, the rest of the album, for the most part, doesn’t indicate any amount of anger at all. However, at a musical level, it gives the blues musician an opportunity to find a direction that he’s seemed to have searched for, for a very long time. Both 2012’s Blak and Blu and 2015’s The Story of Sonny Boy Slim had a very big blues effect. 2019’s This Land gives Clark Jr a push towards modern-rock, post-punk, and even classic country.
Not only do these songs transition out of a full blues landscape, but they are huge on a personal level. “Pearl Cadillac” reminisces a memory of leaving home; “Feed the Babies” calls out systemic racism; both “The Guitar Man” and “Got To Get Up” experiment with a punk/thrash sound; an underrated near-pop gem “Don’t Wait Til Tomorrow” even hides towards the back-end of the album. Musically, This Land hits a peak at nearly every checkpoint. From front-to-back, This Land is a true essential listen for listeners of all genres that want to hear a very talented musician at his absolute best.