Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: “moving forward with one foot in the past.”
Hailed as the future of the blues by Guitar Player with his debut album of two years ago – “blues infused with new life” we said in our review of Kingfish – twenty-two-year-old Christone “Kingfish” Ingram from Mississippi delivers on that promise in spades with his second album 662.
He continues to demonstrate his awareness of the blues history that has proceeded him but, as he says, he’s “moving forward with one foot in the past.” 662, which refers to the telephone area code around Ingram’s home town of Clarksdale, that famed home of the blues, is clearly a blues album, but Ingram pulls off the neat trick of both sounding traditional and thoroughly modern at the same time.
His song-writing – he wrote all fourteen songs on the album – his fine vocals and, of course, his outstanding guitar chops are all on display in a set of songs that show a nice degree of variation, but cohere pleasingly. There’s some soul, some slow-burning blues, a ballad or two and some up-tempo blues rock.
In the past 18 months, Ingram has won seven Blues Music Awards and a Grammy nomination, so perhaps it ought to be no surprise he’s delivered an album of such excellent quality. 662 was recorded in Nashville and co-produced by Grammy-winner Tom Hambridge, and Kingfish is backed by an excellent and sizable band – Kenny Greenberg and Bob Britt on guitars, Marty Sammon on keys, Glenn Worf and Tommy McDonald on bass, Max Abrams and Julio Diaz on horns and Tom Hambridge on percussion. There’s also help from multi-instrumentalist Nick Goldston, and vocals on the final track by Brook Stephenson.
Ingram says that the album was written during the pandemic, shortly after he returned home from a whirlwind year and a half of touring and “is a direct reflection of my growth as a musician, a songwriter, a bandleader, and as a young man…there has been much change, happiness and despair in my life.” With 662, he wants the world to hear and meet a different, more personal side of him than they saw with his debut album. Take a listen and you’ll see that that is exactly the case.
Things kick off with the rocking autobiographical title track, which has you itching to get down to Clarksdale and find out what the blues is all about. But wait up – keep listening to the album and you’ll find out. In Christone’s hands, it’s twelve bars, shimmering single-note guitar playing that reaches right inside of you and twists your innards, and “the girl who’s got me down.”
But it’s more than that. In Another Life Goes By, Ingram addresses the race and gun problems in America head on – “it’s been going on for decades, we keep doing people wrong.” “We’ve got to stop the madness,” he sings soulfully, in a poignant song that reminded me of the best of Robert Cray.
Another song in this vein is the delightful That’s All It Takes, a slow, soulful ballad, where the crisp Fender tones ring out to complement Ingram’s expressive vocals and counterpoint against some tasteful horns.
There’s a nice twist on the traditional blues “my woman done me wrong” cliché in My Bad. In this sold blues rocker, Christone takes the blame for a failed relationship squarely – “if it wasn’t my bad, she’d be loving me like she should.”
We get a lovely funky tribute to Ingram’s blues heritage in Too Young to Remember, where he hails the juke joints, “the shacks out on the highway,” where “the blues were going down.”
There’s never a dull moment in the album, with a nice blend of styles and approaches to the songs – to his guitar and singing skill, add song-writing too. Sometimes with an album you get the impression that the songs are running out of steam by numbers ten or eleven. Here, you’re suddenly up on your feet again with I Got to See You, a joyful piece of rock’n’roll, and then there’s a great run in to the final song, a beautiful acoustic tribute to his mother, Princess Pride Ingram, who recently passed away.
She was been the inspiration for Christone’s musical career and the “angel on my shoulder” who won’t let him give up whenever things get tough. Ingram’s singing here on this final, bonus track, Rock and Roll, is outstanding and his guitar solos glorious.
You’re left wanting more. If he can keep up the quality shown in this release, Christone Ingram has a stellar career ahead. Highly recommended.