Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Kingfish

“Kingfish is the next explosion of the blues” –Buddy Guy

He’s a fine songwriter; a singer with a voice that’s sweet and raspy when needed, and always so, so soulful; he’s a terrific guitarist, never multiplying notes for the sake of it, but always tasteful and laced with some amazing string bending; he hails from Clarksdale, Mississippi. If his Kingfish album is anything to go by, he is the future of the blues. Add to that Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is just 20 years old.

“In my town, every kid wants to be a rapper,” Ingram says. “I wanted to do something no one else was doing.” He’s acutely aware of the blues history that has proceeded him and says that he’s “moving forward with one foot in the past.” Coming from a musical family – they sing at their family church, and his mother is a cousin of country music legend Charley Pride – Ingram played bass from an early age, but only picked up the guitar seriously when he was 13. Within 5 years, he had toured the US and six other countries, including a performance at the White House for former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Clarksdale is home to the famous blues crossroads where deals were allegedly made to gain guitar chops. Kingfish says, “I just practice all the time,” he says, “that’s the only deal I made, and it’s with myself.”

On the Alligator label, that home of fine blues, Kingfish was produced by Grammy award winning producer, Tom Hambridge (who also takes songwriting credits) and recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville.

It’s quite simply a terrifically enjoyable album, with twelve original songs that feature Ingram’s mellifluous vocals and stunning guitar work. He’s aided and abetted by Buddy Guy on the slow burning Fresh Out, and Keb’ Mo, who plays guitar on six tracks. The vocal duet on Listen, a lovely, laid-back, summery song is very nicely done, with Ingram and Mo complementing each other beautifully. The album is very definitely the blues, with familiar themes of lost and unrequited love but there’s a positivity throughout that is very tangible. There’s humour and fun too, in songs like Trouble and Fresh Out. You’ll be up and dancing with the no holds barred 12 bar blues, It Ain’t Right.

It’s not all electric blues. Been Here Before and Hard Times are Delta blues infused acoustic numbers which testify to the young man’s heritage. There’s a remarkable level of maturity in the way in which Ingram owns these songs and delivers the lyrics – “Hard times, I’m talking about hard times…prices going up at the dollar store…bad times happen to good folks every day / children going hungry with nothing on their plates.”

Ingram’s guitar work on the album is varied, tasteful, always interesting – never formulaic. He can deliver fast and furious, for sure, but it seems for him that it’s more about the emotion, the feeling of the song. He’s already mastered the art of musical story-telling, with judiciously placed notes and well phrased vocals.

“As long as time keeps ticking, as long as people have to cry,” Ingram sings on Believe these Blues, “the blues are never gonna die.” The blues have been around a long time, and the way the music resonates with real people’s real lives, giving both expression but also release to the pain, means that it’ll be around for a long time to come. In Christone Ingram’s hands, the blues are alive and well and infused with new life.