- 18 Feb 20
Blues Wunderkind Goes Soul Searching
Still only in his early twenties, Marcus King has been touring since before he was a teen, and while this is his first solo album, The Marcus King Blues Band already have three long players under their collective belts. The man with the golden touch, producer and Black Key Dan Auerbach, has decided, in his wisdom, to move King towards a more soul-orientated sound for this outing, allowing the spotlight to fall firmly on King’s vocals.
He does get to let rip on ‘The Well’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Say You Will’ and ‘Turn It Up’ and proves himself a fine guitarist with a touch of B.B. King’s vibrato combined with the Bluesbreakers/Mick Taylor/Peter Green sustain that the products of the Gibson Guitar Co are famous for. There’s also a nice, if derivative, nod to the kind of country/soul stew Willie Nelson was knocking out around Shotgun Willie in ‘Too Much Whiskey’, and some subtle fretwork on the closing ‘No Pain’, a song lifted by a tasteful and subtle string arrangement.
The rest aims at various soul labels of the seventies: a bit of Hi Records here, a bit of Stax over there. The problem is that King’s voice isn’t quite as great as Auerbach obviously thinks it is. He’s perfectly fine on the slow roll of ‘Wildflowers And Wine’ or ‘Break’, which, with its glockenspiel and strings, might have been a better fit for that other recent Auerbach client, Yola. He sounds less comfortable however, and slightly over-exposed, on ‘Beautiful Stranger’ and ‘Love Song’, straining for the presence of touring mate Chris Stapleton. As you can probably tell from these song titles, lyrics aren’t a particularly strong suit either.
It’s not a bad record, at all, and it’ll probably make more sense live, but Auerbach and King might consider throwing a bit more grit in the mix next time out.
The Marcus King Band play Whelan's on Feb 23rd, Eldorado is out now.