At the ripe old age of 20, Clarksdale, Mississippi guitar slinger Christone "Kingfish" Ingram has been anointed "the next explosion of the blues," by no less than Buddy Guy. The proclamation is accurate. Ingram is young, but he's spent most of life pursuing the blues across the Delta and Chicago traditions, with nods at '70s hard rock and soul along the way. First exposed to blues via gospel in church, Ingram has been playing guitar since he was ten; he first stepped on a stage to play at the age of 11, at Clarksdale's famous Ground Zero Club, as part of Mississippi blues icon Bill "Howl-N-Madd" Perry's band -- Perry is Ingram's mentor. Before he was 18, Ingram had already toured the U.S. and six other countries, performed at the White House, and made appearances in the Marvel series Nick Cage. His musical influences range from Robert Johnson -- who supposedly made his deal with the devil not far from Ingram's home at the intersection of Highways 61 and 49 -- to Muddy Waters, Guy, and even Prince (he offers a hell of a cover of "Purple Rain" live). Kingfish was recorded in Nashville for Alligator Records and produced by Grammy-winning songwriter, bluesman, country singer, and drummer Tom Hambridge, who co-wrote most of these 12 songs with the guitarist.
Opener "Outside of This Town," reveals the influence of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons with its meaty, angular fills and pulled strings. It's followed by the slow-burning ballad "Fresh Out," on which Ingram trades solos with his hero Guy. Ingram can deliver an acoustic ballad like a master, too: check "Been Here Before" and "Hard Times" with Keb Mo' on acoustic resonator guitar (he appears throughout the record) offering balance, nuance, and restless country-soul. The slow burn of "Love Ain't My Favorite Word" calls forth the influence of Guy's '80s period with its biting, sharp notes and unexpected fills between sung lines and aggressive solo flourishes during turnarounds. "Before I'm Old" shines a light on Guitar Slim before the scorching lead break. "Listen" is a country-blues with a gorgeous vocal from Ingram. "Trouble," on the other hand, is drenched in the New Orleans R&B lineage à la Professor Longhair, and dragged into the present via an intense, rolling melodicism in Ingram's singing and soloing. The funky shuffle and snare breaks in "Believe These Blues" add a hefty yet slow-burning menace to the otherwise nocturnal shuffle. "Hard Times" with Keb Mo' is a slow-burn acoustic shuffle steeped in the Delta mud, while closer "That's Fine by Me" is a sweet, sultry, and soulful nocturnal blues with edgy fills reminiscent of early B.B. King, yet firmly grounded in this historical moment. The bottom line is that Ingram arrives fully formed as an already authoritative presence on Kingfish, all revved up and ready to. This is as promising as a debut album gets.