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Originally published Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 5:31 AM

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Gary Clark Jr. releases blues-soaked debut 'Blak & Blu'

New CDs released this week of Tuesday, Oct. 23, include a blues-soaked debut by Gary Clark Jr., "Blak & Blu"; "Red," by country ingénue Taylor Swift; "Poet's Dead," by Rah Rah; and Swedish House Mafia's "Until Now."

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Gary Clark Jr. 'Blak & Blu' (Warner Bros.)

Gary Clark Jr. is one of the music industry's rising stars, and this year he played every major music festival including Bumbershoot. "Blak & Blu" represents his debut album, and while it doesn't live up to his spectacular live show, it's a solid outing.

Clark's concerts are always blues-soaked affairs, where listeners come away raving about his guitar prowess. You get some of that here, particularly on a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun." But some of his live rawness has been replaced by studio production and his vocals are mixed lower than the drums on most tunes — think latter-day Lenny Kravitz.

Clark's guitar can't be held down, though, particularly on "Numb." Ironically the most moving song on this debut, "The Life," is pure hook-laden R&B. "The Life" may not be an accurate representation of exactly who Clark is outside the studio, but it's got a tremendously catchy riff. Like the rest of "Blak & Blu," that one riff leaves us wanting more, an ideal place for Gary Clark Jr. to start.

Charles R. Cross,

special to The Seattle Times

Other new releases

Taylor Swift, "Red" (Big Machine)

Rah Rah, "The Poet's Dead" (Hidden Pony)

Swedish House Mafia, "Until Now" (Astralwerks)

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