Photos and Words: Shadow Editor
You get the feeling that Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is very intuned with his musical heritage and influences that have derived from the great blues kingsmen of the past. Especially growing up in the Delta, Clarksdale, Mississippi area. The names of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Lightnin Hopkins, and Son House are now synonymous with the Delta Blues, a sound they helped craft and influence for generations. That is why is somewhat surprising to find a talented young blues guitar prodigy with a story to tell, typically we tend to associate an older statesman when it comes to the blues genre, but Kingfish is here to break that mold and pave his own roads.
As Christone explains himself, life as a youngster took him in the Blues direction, a sort of calling into the great legends of the past, when he got a chance to learn more about the history of the Blues in this country and attended the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, it opened up a world of possibilities. It would be calling it a disservice to just say Kingfish is new in the scene because of his age, (23 years old) now, he has been in the scene for a minute, learning and honing his craft, playing small local venues and regional places always getting better. It wasn’t until his self-titled debut in 2019, later followed last year by “662” that his career seemed to have skyrocketed. You add that on top of his 2 Grammy nominations for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” and “Best Traditional Blues Album”, and now he is cooking. In all honesty; as a blues fan myself and fans of many Rock genres, I was not familiar with his work until he played in Huntsville a couple of years ago, his performance at Sidetracks was noteworthy. I recall watching a live video of friends recording where Kingfish went outside of the venue while playing his guitar and just chilling outside on a bench playing like a regular Joe. This piqued my curiosity and had to check him out again at a bigger venue.
After flirting with another snowstorm in March no less, the snow all but cleared out in the Rocket City by Sunday morning and we get to the venue to see part of the opener in Country/Soul artist Rissi Palmer. While a few of the tunes we’re on the slow/jam side, there is no hiding Rissi has some vocals on her. Not familiar with her previous works, but having a few albums under her belt since 2007 shows a talented singer worthy of support. Check her out when you get a chance.
The night quickly moves for the main act and Kingfish and his band comes onstage as this spring leg of his 662: Juke Joint Live is finally rolling. For those that don’t know the 662 is area code for most of Northern Mississippi. The local product checks into high gear never forgetting where his roots are firmly cemented. Some of the early favorites come via The amazing cover of Michael Burks “Empty Promises” Kingfish just puts his melodic and accomplished skillset at the forefront, Ingram puts so much emotion into this one, his guitar playing was not too fast, as he said after the song. Some people complain that he plays that one too fast, no doubt he can be a shredder, but this tune is a perfect display of emotional balance and proficiency. The very personal “Another Life Goes By” speaks for itself as is a reflection of current social issues and speaks very freely about young Black Americans killed as a result of hatred and policing. “Where does hate come from? And how do we make it stop? We got to make some changes before somebody else gets shot. We need to pay attention to all the helpless cries. We got to stop the madness before another life goes by”; pointed and direct.. you get the picture. Another churner comes via “Not Gonna Lie”, with a modern mix of uptempo bluesy hooks, this tune brings some colorful angles to the setlist.
Another single off 662 shines through in “Long Distance Woman” as the King expresses the difficulties of keeping relationships as a traveling bluesman. Finally, the night ends on a solo fest galore via the iconic Hendrix classic “Hey Joe“.
What else can be said? A solid and very enjoyable night witnessing a true up and comer in the scene, someone I hope to watch grow and mature in a long-running Blues career. Some people we’re just meant to play the blues, Christone Kingfish Ingram seems to be one of those individuals. And yes many there got to witness up close and personal his live performance as he took time in the middle of the set to play inside the very enthusiastic crowd, maybe it’s me being a sucker for nostalgia and using stupid cliches, but to me, this sort of stuff just brings fans closer to the artist. A very nice touch indeed. All hail the King!!!