sometimes get blues artist recommendations from
some of the most unlikely sources. Nearly two
years ago a former major league baseball pitcher
between innings at a game showed me a Youtube
video of this red-hot teenaged guitar slinger
from Clarksdale, Mississippi named Kingfish.
That's about all I knew about Christone
"Kingfish" Ingram until his self-titled album
was recently released by Alligator Records.
After one listening to Kingfish, now 20, I
was convinced that this young cat is going to be
a big part of the future of the blues. Because
he counts Jimi Hendrix and Prince among his
many influences, it would be easy to label
Kingfish's music as blues/rock, but to these
ears this young man's music is pretty much
Recorded in Nashville, this album has drummer
Tom Hambridge's fingerprints all over it ---
and that's a good thing. Hambridge produced the
recordings, played drums on every cut, and
co-wrote 11 of the 12 cuts here. Several
well-known guests pop in here and there
throughout the album.
Kingfish kicks off with a heavy mid-tempo
shuffle, "Outside Of This Town," with Kingfish
(the artist) showing off his guitar prowess
right from the start. The first significant
guest artist joins in on the slow blues "Fresh
Out," with Buddy Guy contributing his usual
exemplary guitar work while Kingfish tells us
what he's run out of in his life, ranging from
coffee, butter and milk while he really wants to
convey the void in his love life. Keb' Mo' joins
in on guitar for one of his frequent guest spots
on this album. Wrapping up the first quarter of
the album is another mid-tempo shuffle, "It
Ain't Right," with Kingfish putting down some
stinging guitar licks.
My favorite cut, "Been Here Before," comes next.
It's a very touching acoustic number in which
Kingfish talks very honestly about his
uncertainty in himself and how he's always been
different than his peers, singing, "...Some kids
like the great hits, but I dig Guitar Slim ..."
But his grandma has repeatedly reassured him
that he's special, hinting that he's a
reincarnated old soul by telling Kingfish, "...
Child, you've been here before ..." This song
will likely stick with the listener for quite
some time, perhaps even causing some
Billy Branch joins the band on the up-tempo
shuffle "If You Love Me," starting the song out
with a killer harmonica intro and adding a good
solo later while Hambridge drives the beat on
drums. All that Kingfish wants from his woman is
for her to tell him she loves him, with the wah
wah effect on guitar helping to emphasize his
desires. Obviously things didn't work out the
way he wanted, as Kingfish sings about his
unsuccessful love life on "Love Ain't My
Favorite Word" while throwing down some
appropriate slow blues guitar licks. He sings,
"... Love Ain't my favorite word, so many people
have used it in vein ..."
'Keb 'Mo shares vocals with Kingfish and
contributes nice acoustic guitar work on the
pleasant, uplifting number "Listen," with
Kingfish throwing in some Allman-esque guitar
while singing, "...Every day your sunshine comes
peeking through my blinds ..." Kingfish gets
autobiographical on the funky number "Before I'm
Old," as he sings about what he's done so far in
his 20 years on earth as well as what's ahead
for him. "Believe These Blues" is a slower snaky
tune on which he shares his belief that
conditions exist for the blues to be around now
and in the future.
Kingfish finds himself in a real mess on
"Trouble," waking up in another bed and finding
multiple text messages and voicemails on his
phone from his woman asking his whereabouts. The
guitar work helps Kingfish express his feeling
of doom while Hambridge drives the beat with
good polyrhythmic drumming. I love the sparse
instrumentation and back porch feel of "Hard
Times," with Kingfish singing a slow blues about
how everyone is experiencing hard times while 'Keb
Mo' backs him on acoustic resonator guitar.
Closing this outstanding album is a nice, slow
late-night blues, "That's Fine By Me,"
highlighted by Marty Sammon's tastefully subtle
Mr. Christone Ingram is a rising star in the
blues world, and Kingfish proves it. This
is a "must have" for any blues lover and an
early candidate for blues album of the year.
--- Bill Mitchell