Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – Kingfish
Alligator Records – 2019
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram just turned 20 years old and as a teenager he has taken the blues world by storm! This young man hails from Clarksdale, MS, and plays a modern yet authentic version of Delta blues. His raw and primal sound at his live shows grabs the listener and makes them take notice.
Ingram co-wrote 8 of the dozen tunes with producer Tom Hambridge. Hambridge wrote the other 4 songs and appears on drums and percussion on 11 of the 12 tracks. Also joining the young singer and guitar player are Rob McNelley on guitar, Tommy MacDonald on bass and Marty Sammon on keys. Kingfish also has a couple of great guests who appear here.
The album opens with a heavy groove in the cut “Outside of This Town.” Strident lead guitar and vocals are Kingfish’s trademark and they are quite evident here and throughout the CD. He sings with authority and his first guitar solo of the album midway through the song shows restraint and control. He returns for a somewhat grittier second solo which takes us home. Well done! Buddy Guy appears on “Fresh Out,” the second tune offered up here. Straight up Chicago-style blues here, with both the young and old master taking turns on the two guitar solos. Ingram plays some mean and very cool licks in the first solo while Buddy comes in and gives us his take on the cut with an edgier approach. Guy then takes the vocal lead to complete the cut. Kingfish has been touring with Guy and Buddy has helped make Kingfish a household name in the blues world as he tours with him. “It Ain’t Right” takes a power blues trio approach with Kingfish and drums and bass. He lays out more great guitar but never goes over the top, classy stuff. Kingfish goes acoustic for “Been Here Before.” He does a nice job on the acoustic work doing some pretty picking; the piano gets added for backing effects, too. Slow and savory stuff, showcasing another side of Kingfish.
“If You Love Me” adds Billy Branch on harp and Keb Mo on guitar with Kingfish. It’s a pretty little tune with a nice, clean boogie beat. Chris Black is on drums here. Ingram sings the lead and Branch blows some great harp. Mo plays electric guitar and it’s a sweet ride though this one. Things slow way down for “Love Ain’t My Favorite Word,” a classic slow blues with stingingly wicked guitar. A little B3 backs up the cut nicely as Kingfish testifies vocally and answers his vocal calls with his axe. A huge guitar solo is featured here, showcasing this young man’s abilities. “Listen” features Keb Mo on acoustic guitar and sharing in the vocals. A midtempo piece, Ingram starts the vocal lead and then Keb comes in. A soft and almost ethereal electric guitar solo is offered up. The two of them take us home as they spar beautifully on vocals. Mo returns on electric guitar for “Before I’m Old;” we get some more B3 here, too. MacDonald lays out a nice bass line for us and Kingfish gives us a well done set of vocals before his solo on guitar. He attacks the solo but never loses control or goes over the top, showing real growth here. The second solo is again cool and well done, too, on this pretty, slower paced cut.
Keb Mo again joins in on guitar for “Believe These Blues,” another great slower blues tune. Kingfish again sings and plays with authority on the cut. The second solo appears to be Keb laying down some sweet licks for us to enjoy. “Trouble” gets a bit of a rhumba sort of beat going with piano added as Kingfish delivers another cool track for us. An acoustic duo with Keb Mo on resonator and Kingfish on vocals is served up in “Hard Times.” Stripped down, acoustic and just very slick. Kingfish sings with confidence and Mo plays the groove here and also delivers a nice solo on the resonator. The CD concludes with “That’s Fine By Me,” a pretty, slow blues that shows this young man’s abilities once again. Kingfish sings like an old pro and answers his vocal calls with the occasional B.B. King-like guitar response. The piano adds to the ambiance of this slow blues and Sammon gives us a great solo to enjoy. Kingfish takes us to conclusion with his guitar to finish this great debut CD.
I’m not sure this is exactly what I expected. Many of the live shows and songs I’ve seen Kingfish do are really wild and have some over the top guitar here and there. The work here is much more restrained and yet is equally enjoyable (if not better). Perhaps it’s Hambridge’s influence, perhaps it’s the result of touring with Buddy Guy, or perhaps it’s just Kingfish growing up. The vocal and guitar work here is clean, precise and very well done. The guitar is restrained but effective. The solos are not overdone and showcase the skills of this fine young musician.
It really is a great CD and Kingfish Ingram really has grown up to become a superb bluesman. I recommend this one highly! Go get this one now and enjoy it!