If you haven’t seen or experienced Christone “Kingfish” Ingram in concert, let me just say that it’s like going on a blind date on the advice of friends – and ending up having the best night of your life. You get there and after a few songs, you just fall into the good feelings. By the end of the night, your mind runs out of adjectives for just. how. good. this. is.
It was June 29, 2019 – cooling somewhat from the hot, muggy daytime weather – at Knucklehead’s, where a largely curious crowd pressed up against the stage in anticipation. Some already knew and were busy buying the t-shirts and CD over at the merch table. Others had no idea what they were about to experience. The chatter was just about how some new kid was supposed be, as Buddy Guy has declared: “Kingfish is the next explosion of the blues.”
By regular standards, at 20 years old, Kingfish is just a kid. If you’re an elder like me, your mind might even tell you “He’s just a CHILD!” I’m his grandmother’s age – so I feel like I can say that. But, he’s not a beginner. Ingram and Guy played together at the 2015 Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, OR – according to the CD jacket article by writer Geoffrey Himes. Christone was just 16 at that time. He was 11 the first time he played in front of an audience. And he was pictured with Michelle Obama after he performed at the National Arts and Humanity Youth Program Aware Ceremony in 2015 at the White House.
So, there’s nothing regular or child about Christone Ingram a/k/a Kingfish. It’s like the gods opened up the heavens for the rest of us and said “Maybe you’ll pay attention to the good life we’ve born you into – if we give you THIS.”
If all the man did was come out on stage and just play, you’d be thrilled. But, no, wait, there’s more. He’s also funny, engaging and he’s INTO YOU. He’s got stories. And, okay, I’m gonna go there – he’s an old soul. Fresh outta the Delta, from Friars Point, Mississippi.
Little tidbit, in case you didn’t know, I thought I’d share this historical quote from Muddy Waters:
“The only time I heard Robert Johnson play was in front of a little drugstore in Friars Point.”
I’m not trying to infer anything here. I’m just putting a few things together in case you want to ponder some points about the term “old soul” in association with the young talent named Kingfish.
Like his song “Been Here Before” – he croons: “I can still hear my grandma sayin’/Child, you’ve been here before.”
And last night, with just a three-piece band – himself, a drummer and bass – he convinced a whole lotta people that he was more than enough to press a crowd against the stage. It’s the blues, for certain.
But, again, wait, there’s more.
Out to the audience Kingfish wandered with his guitar into the entire Knuckleheads outdoor arena, down through the crowd, up the stairs to the balcony, through the balcony and down the stairs on the other side – weaving his spellbinding guitar-wand over the mesmerized audience. He knew what he was doing. He had that audience – hook, line and sinker – on a Kingfish lure.
Here’s a clip of that Kingfish audience crawl on video – it was an unexpected delight for the audience :
Released May, 17, 2019, Christone’s debut album “Kingfish” is a diamond-studded master-piece with the likes of Keb Mo’, Rob McNelley and Marty Sammon playing in, along with the Grammy award-winning Tom Cambridge on drums and percussion. The phenomenal bassist Tommy McDonald is also among the star-power players on this album.
If that weren’t enough, Buddy Guy shows up on the album with guitar and vocals on “Fresh Out” – a delightful set of lyrics and straight up blues notes comparing being fresh out of milk with being fresh out of love.
What any of us begin to love and appreciate about the album, this young-old soul album – is that the elders stepped up and are boosting the future of the blues by making the worthwhile investment in Christone. The rarity here goes both ways, though. Christone’s respect for the elders and the rich history from which he has sprung is part of the force that is propelling him forward. Buddy Guy could easily have kept “Fresh Out” (Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming) for himself completely – but he did not. Known for helping along young talent, Guy brought his wisdom and support but let Christone take the spotlight on this delicious song.
On Alligator Records, Kingfish is on sale now. It’s an absolute blues treat. Here’s a taste of that “Fresh Out” track from the label’s youtube channel (thank you, Alligator!):
I looked around the audience here in Kansas City last night – and in my loose observation, it wasn’t just the older generation there. The audience was packed with young people – those who will take the blues to their own place in the history of the blues. And as Kingfish reminded us – he’s a part of that young generation – as he pulled out his cell phone to photograph his fans during the concert.
Yes, the legacy fans were there also. And just as energized by the performance. The new blood into the old blues appears to be getting a warm welcome.
What this will mean is still unfolding but I’ll just share what one man in the audience had to say in the after glow of hearing Kingfish last night: “I’ve heard Stevie Ray Vaughn – twice – and, you know what? NEVERMIND.”
Want to experience a Kingfish concert for yourself? You’re in luck – he’s touring. Check out his upcoming concert dates: https://www.christonekingfishingram.com/shows
Below: As a footnote for those who are just discovering Kingfish, here’s a little historical prospective shared via Delta Bohemian Madge Marley Howell’s youtube channel (please subscribe for more cool stuff):
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