Marcus King wrapped himself in a Semtex-tight package of sixties and seventies blues-rock and soul music for his explosive fifth LP, and with an astute producer and a group of seasoned players, electrified it with his own special charge. “Young Blood” hits one after the other with 11 heavy, catchy, Southern-inflected vibes.
King works in a similar field here as do Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, digging back and surging forward at once. In fact, Haynes was an early supporter. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach also took notice, this being the second album he’s produced for the South Carolina native. Nine short years ago, King was a 17-year-old guitar prodigy probing the jam music scene. Auerbach helped make “Young Blood” the album that certifies Marcus King a blues-rocking, soul-shaking star.
King has sharpened his axe chops to cutting edge, readily apparent in dazzling ways throughout “Young Blood.” But what’s equally striking is that he’s developed into a soul singer damn-near nonpareil in this realm. The album may be called “Young Blood,” but an old soul lurks inside Marcus King. Cut right to the album-closing tour de force “Blues Worse than I Ever Had.” King’s high-pitched inflections convince exactly as several of the soul greats did at similar young ages. Of course, King pierces the song with the guitar playing he made his name on, ending the album with perfect notes molded from the impossible standards Duane Allman left behind.
With co-writers Auerbach and others, King turned tough times into incredibly revealing, relatable songcraft. The thunderous opener, “It’s Too Late,” instantly rivets by its finality, the “woo-hoo’s” in the refrain relaying excitement for a new chapter in contrast. “Lie Lie Lie” follows about shedding a hanger-on, the song tailor-made for airplay by its modern, choppy sheen. King lets loose on guitar in both openers, his solos perfectly clipped and thick as blood and/or jagged-edged-sharp. Then the heat simmers down to bubbly for the Creedence Clearwater Revival-swampy “Rescue Me,” King tipping his hat to Haynes with quick whips of snaky slide guitar in line with his pleading. “Good and Gone,” like a vintage Deep Purple or Humble Pie stomper, tracks someone who’s had enough, while “Aim High” hits the same blues-rock bullseye that the late Irish great Rory Gallagher used to, King testifying in pained magnificence about guilt. The caustic “Blood on the Tracks” then moves as if Tony Joe White left a track behind for the Black Crowes to get a handle on.
Dan Auerbach can certainly read musical artists, no matter who they are or what style they work in. “Young Blood” tracks with his recent studio sessions guiding northern New York State bluegrass luminaries the Gibson Brothers and street-gritty Southern soul man Robert Finley, in that he encouraged King to openly embrace whatever makes him tick best. In doing so, Marcus King reveals himself in all his natural glory.
Label: American Records/Republic
Release: Aug. 26, 2022