Kingfish calling: Decorated blues star releases ‘662’

Tahoe Onstage
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram makes new friends at his Bluesdays debut in The Village at Squaw Valley back in 2019.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage photo

The “Kingfish” with most of the trophies splashes back into the deep blues sea on Friday.

The sophomore album by Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – “662” — will be released July 23, the opening day of a long-awaited tour.

“I have that first-day-of-school anticipation,” the 22-year-old Clarksdale, Missisippi resident told Tahoe Onstage. “The shows that we’ve doing this year already inching up to the tour, it’s got me psyched, man. I’m ready to play music and cure the ills of the people.”

The pandemic and lockdown was arresting for the entire music industry, but it was especially halting for Ingram who was riding a tsunami of newfound attention and acclaim. He swept the 2020 Blues Music Awards — Best Emerging Artist Album, Best Contemporary Blues Album and Album of the Year, Top Instrumentalist-Guitar and Best Contemporary Blues Artist – followed up in 2021 with two more — Contemporary Blues Male Artist and Top Instrumentalist-Guitar – and had finished 13 months of performances.

Instead of a 2020 summer tour in Europe, Ingram worked on a new album. Some call the process of writing songs as woodshedding. In Covid vernacular it’s Zoom meetings.

“Every Thursday, myself, Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming just sat there and wrote songs,” Ingram said. “Then we all met up at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville and recorded 21 of them.”

Thirteen of those songs made it onto “662” plus a bonus track, “Rock & Roll,” a previously released single honoring Ingram’s mother, Princess Latrell Pride Ingram, who recently passed away.

As with the debut album, “Kingfish,” “662” features dynamic guitar but also more mature vocals and story lines and a wider variety of styles.

“We went hard on the first record but I felt like we could go harder on this one,” Ingram said. “I wanted to go a little more rockier, a little more edgier. On the first record I had a little more restraint. But on this one I wanted come out of left field with some more stuff.

“And we wanted to showcase not only my guitar playing but my singing as well, and the growth of my personal life. We got things smooth. We got things hard. Edgy, soft. Something for everybody to enjoy.”

A prolific producer, Hambridge is famous for pulling songs out of his conversations with Buddy Guy. He has done the same for both of Ingram’s albums. For example, “I’m not gonna lie” is an often-used saying Ingram uses before making a point. It led to a song about Ingram’s promise to the aforementioned Buddy Guy about carrying the blues torch into the future.

Guy and Ingram’s mentors and teachers could see the drive in the young musician.

“There would be times I would come to class and I would be the only student there,” Ingram said. “The teachers saw that I was one of the go-getters and was really dedicated to this style of music. I think most people saw just how passionate I am about it.”

Ingram started on drums in his church and when he began to play blues he turned to the bass.

“Bass and drums are percussive instruments,” he said. “Once you have a foundation with those two instruments it gives you a rhythm and sense of time and space.”

When he moved to guitar, people made the connection to deep blues and where he comes from. Clarksdale is 10 miles from the famed crossroads, the intersection of highways 61 and 49.

“The whole been-here-before thing, that’s what I heard a lot from my grandma,” Ingram said. “Being from Clarksdale, it’s literally my culture and my history. Coming from here, it makes me really appreciate it. I have love for my culture and just want to let people know I am not just one of those kids who is out there playing it. I’m living it, I’m learning about it and come from it.”

Ingram’s album release coincides with the label Alligator Records’ 50th anniversary.

“I have a lot of faith in the future but also part of my mission and part of my role is to find and develop the people who are going to move this music forward over the next 50 years,” Bruce Iglauer, Alligator’s founder and president, told Tahoe Onstage. “I want to make sure if somebody whose 18 or 19 hears this music that at least rhythmically and lyrically (it is) something that they can relate to.”

Ingrams soulful, stripped down song, “Another Life Goes By” addresses prejudice.

“A lot of people have a narrow view of the blues,” he said. “Everybody thinks its supposed to be ‘Oh my baby left me and cotton fields,’ when it’s a lot more deeper than that. Everything that’s going on in the world, that’s the blues of today. So I think for young black blues artists, talk about what’s going on today because that’s the real blues that we got going on.”

-Tim Parsons

  • Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
    ‘662’
    Label:
    Alligator Records
    Release: July 23, 2021
    West Coast shows: Sept. 15 in El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles and Oct. 20 in the Regency Ball Room, San Francisco
2021 Festival Dates:  
Saturday, August 14, 2021Reading, PABerks Jazz Fest
Saturday, August 21, 2021Norwich, NYChenango Blues Festival
Saturday, August 28, 2021Cockeysville, MDHot August Music Festival
Sunday, August 29, 2021Augusta, NJMichael Arnone’s Crawfish Fest
Saturday, September 4, 2021Manchester, TNBonnaroo Music Festival
Sunday, September 5, 2021High Point, NCJohn Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival
Saturday, September 11, 2021San Diego, CASan Diego Blues Festival
Sunday, September 12, 2021Las Vegas, NVBig Blues Bender
Saturday, September 18, 2021Camden, NJXPoNential Music Festival
Sunday, October 3, 2021Memphis, TNMempho Music Festival
Saturday, October 9, 2021Robinsonville, MSHorseshoe Tunica – Bluesville

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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