Christone “Kingfish” Ingram may have won a Grammy Award this year for his Alligator Records album, 662, but it’s onstage where his incendiary guitar playing truly comes alive, if this review of Kingfish’s May performance at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles by U.S. website Rock And Blues Muse is anything to go by…
“There’s more to Christone “Kingfish” Ingram than being a virtuosic guitar player, stunning vocalist and memorable songwriter.
“Seeing him live, you’ll get it right away. Confident and masterful on stage, he gives in to the spirit of his music, completely in sync with every note. You can’t take your eyes off him. They call that magnetism, but it sure seems magical to me.”
Kingfish is as authentically blues as it gets, being born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. “Blues holy land as they like to call it,” as he told the Fender Sessions in 2020. “Been around here all my life, pretty much.
“To me Clarksdale is what you call the blues… the blues is all around here. With poverty and our fair share of crime and the music of course. Clarksdale represents what blues is to me, for sure.”
He first picked up a guitar at the age of eight. “It belonged to one of the gospel musicians at church,” he recalled. “It was bigger than me and I could fit my arms around it, but just the excitement of actually holding one – something that I’d been wanting to do for a minute – it gave me goosebumps in a way.”
Soon after he discovered the path of the blues. “I was more church and gospel influenced at the time. I didn’t know about the blues until age 8 when I came to the Delta Blues Museum.”
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Playing a live session at a local radio station at age 14, the DJ, Bill Howlin’ Mad Perry, decided he needed a nickname – “I wanna call him Kingfish ‘cause he’s full of it.”
Kingfish was on his way, but soon realised he had to find his own way in the genre and avoid easy stereotypes that didn’t apply to him.
“Around the age of 13 or 14 when I started to write my own stuff it would be just the bluesy cliché stuff, you know? ‘My woman left me.’ Stuff I didn’t really know about, just what I had heard. When I started to take from my life experiences and write what I was really feeling and what was going on in my head that’s when I really started to gain confidence and develop what songwriting really is.
“It’s about your life experiences and what going on in your head rather than just trying to sing someone else’s story.”
Similarly, Kingfish has had to deal with expectations about his music simply because of where he was born and raised.
“You come from Clarksdale, so they want you to moan and groan and be old time,” he explained. “I’d say when I was about age 8, I was an old soul who got all that stuff but then I’d be like, ‘man let’s play something funky.’ But the old guys used to tell me in order to get to that funky stage you gotta go through all the old stuff in the hills and the old slave chant tunes, you have to get there.
“It’s always been a slippery slope with me. I think we can take from the past but also add elements of the modern blues just to where we create something new. So we can have guys trying to cover our songs in the future.”
Blues pundits have argued whether Kingfish is the next B.B. King or Albert King or Stevie Ray Vaughn or even Jimi Hendrix. The fact is he is the only Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, simply because everything he plays comes from his own truth.
“I’ve never been a person to talk my problems out,” he told the Fender Sessions. “I’ve always felt that the guitar was an extension of my voice. Anything that’s going on in my head that I feel I can’t get out verbally, I can get it down on my instrument. There’s so much that I’ve been wanting to say, so that’s me in my true form and my true element.”
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Monday, April 3rd
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday, April 5th
Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
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