Gary Clark Jr. – “The Healing” (Singles Going Steady)

What is this? A new single that rocks? Rare as unicorn teeth, but here it is.

What is this? A new single that rocks? Rare as unicorn teeth, but here it is. He throws everything in: Portentous guitars, impassioned backing vocals, super orchestral splashes thrown around for kicks. Essentially it’s a track about itself and music in general, the “healing” in the song being the healing of “The Healing”. The theme saves the day because lyrically “The Healing” is not that interesting. The only thing better than a song about itself is a song where the singer references himself in a “Move over, Rover / Let Jimi take over” type manoeuvre. Word of advice for young Gary, there can never be an excess of rock. No-one has ever earnestly complained, “This song rocks too much.” So feel free to cut loose. The end of the track could have benefited from just that. — PAUL DUFFUS (8/10)

Guitar virtuoso Gary Clark Jr. will release his second studio album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, in September, and the smoldering single “The Healing” is a promising first taste. The arrangement is gorgeous, with Clark’s soulful and wonderfully complex multi-layered vocals weaving in and around his bluesy guitar licks. “The Healing” draws from blues, rock and gospel, but Clark also incorporates elements of hip-hop in the song’s insistent rhythm. Clark’s acclaimed debut Blak and Blu is going to be hard to top, but if the rest of the new album is anywhere close to as good as “The Healing,” then Clark will not only avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, he will obliterate it. — CHRIS GERARD (9/10)

Gary Clark Jr. has always known how to get into a cool blues groove, and he does a good job of it here. The blocks of sound build into something, but seem to meander more than create a larger structure. The song seems to end more than once, but Clark just keeps on going. There should be more to a song than good guitar licks, and one senses Clark understands this. He just doesn’t know what to do about it. — STEVE HOROWITZ (7/10)

The guy may be seen as a modern blues kingpin, but I always appreciated that Clark seems to aspire to be that little something more than someone trapped within a singular genre as its master craftsman. His latest single mightily accentuates this point with influences pulled from just about anywhere. A heavy, hip-hop-oriented percussion as rocking guitar cadences pan their way out throughout the song before developing into more developed blues-laden licks, all before he brings in the gospel choir. Albeit mildly repetitive (as most blues can be), Clark brings the goods whilst bursting the door open for awareness held unto the healing power of music. — JONATHAN FRAHM (7/10)