The 59th Grammy Awards were full notable performances from some of the biggest names in music. Big favorites certainly captured heart-felt emotion and energy, not to mention armloads of trophies. Two men of music without so much hardware, but heaps of artistic credibility, proved the purpose in heartache. Gary Clark, Jr., and singer-songwriter, William Bell, took the night with street-ragged wisdom and passion that can only be expressed by well-seasoned strings.
Renowned blues guitarist, Clark, and “roots” legend, Bell took the audience- embedded stage inauspiciously around midway through the awards with “Born Under a Bad Sign.” The angst-filled classic was penned by Bell, and Albert King made the song famous in his Stax Records reign. Bell was also a premiere credit to the label, but often obscured in small print. This moment for both musicians was theirs in which to shine with real blues, and they did—dressed in all black.
Reverently allowing Bell to sing the biggest part of his song, Clark took only a verse, but the pain-infused plucks in his licks said everything necessary. The riffs came as easily as breathing for Clark, and the common bonds and camaraderie between the musical greats vibrated from their sphere with every exchange. There were no strobe lights, rotating stage components, or pyrotechnics present for these men who make themselves known with the power of singular soul and strings.
Clark bestowed congratulations upon William Bell for his lifetime-earned Grammy for Best Americana Album for “This Is Where I Live.” Those presentations happened apart from television-viewing audiences. Clark called Bell’s recognition “past due” during the pre-show, calling his collaborator “legendary.” For his part, “doing good music, and music that you're happy with” outweighs celebration, but still “you want that recognition from peers.” Patience pays off.
Bell was moved and humble in his acceptance speech before the televised ceremony, saying “I feel glad to be here after all these years.” “This Is Where I Live” is the 16th album for the icon in blues, soul and “roots” music since the early '60s. His song, “The Three of Me” was also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance. Clark, has not released an album since his 2015 chronicle, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. Last year kept him busy with meaningful string contributions to Anthony Hamilton with “What I'm Feelin’” and “Awaken My Love” for Childish Gambino. Fans can look forward to his impeccable playing on the Miles Davis biopic, “Miles Ahead.” His commercial for the Lincoln Motor Company, featuring the passionate, personal anthem, “The Healing” as its centerpiece, was released just days ahead of the Grammy awards.
Gary Clark, Jr. is slated to perform with My Morning Jacket, grab tickets here on AXS.