CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. - Since Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, blues fans have coveted a new guitar god to come along. Not simply a gifted guitarist, but an undisputed king to lead the genre like a six-stringed pied piper.Lo and behold, Stevie Ray Vaughan appeared in the late 1980s and reigned until his untimely death in 1990.Probably because of the demographic of the blues fan base, the desire seems to have the guitar god be a white male. And in the mid-90s along came "Kid" Jonny Lang, but after a couple of successful albums, the kid grew into more of a Christian rocker than a bluesman. Then there was Kenny Wayne Shepherd, but it's been a challenge for middle-aged white guys to take him seriously when women scream at the guitarist like he's Elvis Presley or a young Beatle. In 2007, Buddy Guy introduced an 8-year-old prodigy, Quinn Sullivan, a remarkable guitarist who can play "Voodoo Child" note for note like Hendrix, Vaughan and Guy. But, seriously, a preteen bluesman? Does getting potty trained count as an emotional pallet for a song?The crown as the great blues player a few years ago quietly went to slide guitarist Derek Trucks, who did it with his back to the audience and not even singing. But as an Allman Brothers family member, he can be considered a southern rock-jam band shredder. What about the blues?Dismissing the notion the next blues hope is white, consider Gary Clark Jr. He's African-American, in his late-20s and an extremely accomplished guitarist and singer. Esoteric listeners knew about Clark before his epic February 2012 performance at Red White and Blues at the White House with Trucks, Guy, B.B. King, Jeff Beck and Mick Jagger.Clark's debut album was released to much acclaim Oct. 22. The New York Times wrote Clark is "pop eclectic rather than a straight-up bluesman." Rolling Stone said, "One hell of a mean guitar tone, playing solos that claw and scream their stories with ornery splendor but Clark won't be genre-bound."The more critics steer Clark from the blues box, we suspect, the more successful he will become. A great white blues hope like Vaughan only comes around once, and the mainstream has a stigma about the blues, anyway.In honor of the biggest shopping day of the year, we suggest some great music for blues fans from artists who happen to be black. - Gary Clark Jr., "Blak and Blu," Warner Brothers - With a delivery like Robin Trower's guitar and Robert Palmer's vocals, Clark's original tunes come in myriad styles: soul, pop, rock, psychedelic, blues and even doo-wop. As great as the musicianship of his guitar, Clark's amazing vocal range, which goes as high as falsetto, is what make him the next great thing.- Ralph Woodson, "Incredible Dreamer," Independent - While his Jimi Hendrix tribute, Purple Haze, has been his gig-earning bread and butter, the veteran Bay Area guitarist is an accomplished songwriter as well, as this album demonstrates. Like Clark's album, Woodson touches on several styles, and his favorite is jazz with a soul bent.- Guitar Shorty, "Bare Knuckle," Alligator Records - Jimi Hendrix's uncle taught him showmanship and inspired the lick for "Purple Haze." Shorty plays an aggressive call-and-response with his voice and guitar. Check him out Dec. 7 at the High Sierra Brewing Company in Carson City.- Eddie Turner, "Miracles & Demons," NorthernBlues Music - "Devil Boy" as far as we know has never played Tahoe so he's unknown in these parts. Although the album is a couple of years old, it is a timeless trance-rock-blues masterpiece. The guitar work is superb.
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