April 23, 2021 Gilby Clarke – The Gospel Truth (Album Review)
You know Gilby Clarke: the talented guitarist who stepped into Guns N’ Roses’ rhythm slot when Izzy Stradlin vacated in 1991. For the next two years of the Use Your Illusion touring cycle, and roughly 10 music videos, he offered a much-needed slice of stability for the World’s Most Dangerous Band. Sure, he stuck around to get messy with some pasta in 1993, but as an inner war began to boil over democracy, Clarke found himself unceremoniously ousted by 1995.
Of course, it wasn’t all bad blood between himself and some of the other Gunners, and new projects kept the guitarist busy—bands like Slash’s Snakepit, Col. Parker (with Slim Jim Phantom and Teddy “Zig Zag” Andreadis), and Rock Star Supernova (with Tommy Lee and Jason Newsted). He would go on to work with Nancy Sinatra, tour with Heart and The MC5, and was even featured mocking Fall Out Boy in their hysterical video for “I Don’t Care.” But it’s the musician’s passion for dirty ‘ole Rock-n-Roll that has driven his career.
With a love of fist-pumping Hard Rock fueled by bluesy riffs, infectious choruses, and his trademark wailing solos, he birthed his solo career with 1994’s Pawnshop Guitars. Its first phase would ultimately last through 2001’s Swag, but this is all history. Ready to write a brand new chapter in one of the wildest autobiographies in music, Clarke is back with his first new solo material in nearly two decades, The Gospel Truth, which arrives on Friday, April 23, 2021 thanks to Golden Robot Records.
Classic Rock with deliciously loud guitars is what titillates Clarke. A self-styled mash-up of Keith Richards, Johnny Thunders, and B.B. King, he has appeared on stages across the globe, written multiple albums worth of material, and produces bands, too. Now he’s ready to introduce a new generation to his vintage love with The Gospel Truth. The 10-track disc kicks off with the titular “The Gospel Truth,” a rocker that explores the concept of truth with a killer bass groove and soaring guitar solo, an offering that is perfect for easing in new listeners while lovingly appreciating the return of old-school fans.
This familiarity is a trend that will continue throughout the duration of the collection, one that makes Clarke’s new material just as accessible as his debut was 27 years ago. This comes thanks to his signature bluesy grit, which we soon encounter amid the vagabond life that is “Wayfarer.” But it’s a later track, “Dangerous Sin,” that provides a flawless representation of Clarke’s lo-fi ‘70s Rock vibes that are honed yet still raw, catchy yet lethal.
Obvious single “Tightwad” features both Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe, Sixx:A.M.) and Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction, Porno For Pyro, Infectious Grooves) on a toe-tapper that is, as the kid’s say, a bop. The same can be said for the upbeat “She Won’t Fight Fair,” or even the darker vibes of “Rusted N Busted.” And in a world that is getting noisier by the day, it makes perfect sense that “Rock n’ Roll Is Getting Louder.” Clarke’s brand, however, is straight-up ‘70s with Punk Rock authority issues that are packaged as the blues, and, by today’s Hard Rock standards, it’s not especially loud. (Shh, don’t tell him we said that.)
There are more melodic moments (“Wise Old Timer”) that toy with sleazy grooves, infectious beats (“The Ending”), and a killer jam session with perfect piano accompaniment (“Violation”) that makes for the perfect sing-along. Sure, the lyrics tend toward being somewhat repetitive, but that is simply the minimalist style that we’ve come to expect from the singer-songwriter-guitarist. It’s more about creating an aural whiskey-soaked grain or buttery leather kiss than crafting mind-boggling lyrical poetry.
So, as he melds together lo-fi ‘70s Hard Rock and what we’ve decided to lovingly term Desert Rock (think outlaws and abandoned highways), with a dash of Punk ethos, Clarke stays true to his passion with The Gospel Truth. As he’s been doing this for years, it’s safe to say that most of those who are apt to check out the album already love his music, and those who do not are unlikely to suddenly come to the table. Either way, it’s not rocket science, just some gritty sonic dust from a man who happily sold his soul to Rock-n-Roll long ago. For this, Cryptic Rock gives The Gospel Truth 3.5 of 5 stars.